Promotion & Relegation Watch – League Two – Midpoint

Note: It’s the midpoint across the English Football League, with matches on Boxing Day marking the start of the second half of the season for the Championship, League One, and League Two.

Between international call-ups postponing matches – League One and League Two clubs don’t generally get international breaks but can request postponement of matches if they lose first-team players to international clubs – and trouble with weather or fields, some clubs have not yet played 23 matches. Nevertheless, with three quarters of the clubs done with the first time through the league, we wanted to look at the standings to see where the clubs currently stand.

As a reminder, in League Two, the top three teams are automatically promoted to League One, with the fourth- through seventh-place teams competing for promotion via a playoff. After the 2017-2018 season, Accrington Stanley (1st), Luton Town (2nd), Wycombe Wanderers (3rd) and Coventry City (playoff winner) earned promotion.

At the Top of the Table

Prior to the matches on Boxing Day, this is how the top of the league stood:

League Two Promotion 20181226

The top three clubs from last update remain the same. Lincoln City maintained their lead by going undefeated, going 3-2-0, though they wrapped up their first half with a loss to Crewe Alexandra on Boxing Day. They are second in the league in scoring, with their 42 goals trailing only Bury’s 45 goals (including Boxing Day matches). They do, however, have a league leading +20 goal differential, which has helped them reach the top of the league.

The Milton Keynes Dons also had three wins since the previous update, though they had two losses instead of draws. Nevertheless, they stayed behind Lincoln City thanks to the best defense in the league, at least according to goals allowed. Surrendering only 14 goals through 22 matches (0.64 goals per match). Finally, Colchester United continued along in third place, with a 3-1-2 record, though they have played all 23 matches, unlike the two clubs above them.

Recent History

The biggest move of the clubs in the top seven belongs to Bury, the league leading offense. A 4-1-1 record since our last update moved them from 10th in the league table to their current 4th position. Along with the MK Dons, Bury was among the clubs relegated from League One after last season, so their position near the top of the league shouldn’t be terribly surprising.

Lincoln City, on the other hand, is in their second consecutive season in League Two after winning the league title in the National League during the 2016-17 season. They managed to finish in playoff position last season, losing to Exeter City in the promotion playoffs. A return to League One next season would be their first since the 1998-99 season.

At the Bottom of the Table

As a reminder, the bottom two clubs in League Two face relegation to the National League. Three of the four clubs in the bottom four remain from the last update, with Grimsby Town managing to play themselves out of the group (a 4-1-1 record in the meantime sure helped).

Entering the Boxing Day matches, this is how the clubs at the bottom aligned:

League Two Relegation 20181226

Cheltenham Town is three points clear of the “red zone,” riding a relatively successful 3-2-1 stretch since our last update. Those 11 points surpass only the surprising Macclesfield Town, who six weeks ago were sitting at one win on the season, and have since garnered 10 points (3-1-2) more than doubling the points on the season for the last place club.

New to the bottom four is Cambridge United, who were 0-2-4 between updates (they opened their second half on Boxing Day with a victory against Crawley Town). That winless stretch widened their goal differential by eight goals, and they were third in the league at -19. That win on Boxing Day started the second half of the season in a positive manner, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Recent History

Macclesfield Town’s struggles weren’t unexpected; the club won the National League title the year prior, but they aren’t exactly a club that has a record of success in League Two. In 14 previous seasons in League Two, they had an average finish of 16th place. They’ve only played one season above League Two in their history, a 24th place finish in League One during the 1998-99 season.

The other member of the bottom four, Notts County, is perhaps the most surprising club among the group. The Magpies finished last season in 5th place, qualifying for the promotion playoff, where they lost to playoff winner Coventry City in the semifinal. This season has been a much different story.

They opened the season 0-3-6 before winning their first match. After a brief three match winning streak, they went through another nine match winless streak (0-4-5). They are on their third manager on the season, with Neal Ardley taking over the club at the end of November. Of the clubs currently in the bottom four, my money is on Notts County to not figure things out, especially in light of Macclesfield Town’s recent success.

Until next time…

As of matches played through 22 December 2018

 

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