Everyone will have seen the ‘league table since Christmas’ and we’re all quite aware that for Town it was a season of two halves. But I thought I’d look into the numbers a bit more deeply across the division.
For a start, I’ve created tables for each club’s first and last 23 matches. These tables never existed on a given date, but make things a lot clearer.
At the halfway point, a gap was beginning to appear about 9th place, and Town were on the wrong side of it, in 12th. We were finding the net: only Wigan (who had incredibly scored in all 23 games) and three other teams had a better record of not failing to score. Indeed, we hadn’t drawn a blank until the 0-0 against Oxford on 13 November. However, we’d also only kept 4 clean sheets in 23.
The problem, as we all know, is that none of the 9 clubs who’d started to pull away had a bad second half to the season. Oxford could probably be the most disappointed with the run-in, but even so, their 34 points in the last 23 games would still be comfortably top-half form.
As a result, any clubs turning around their season in the second half could do no more than hang on to the coat-tails of the leading group. Apart from Town, the only other club to significantly reverse its fortunes was Bolton, and we should note that their 47-point second half was considerably better than ours, and indeed automatic promotion form.
Town’s notable achievements in the second half of the season were of course defensive. We had the joint most clean sheets at home (73%, with Plymouth), and the most clean sheets overall (57%). This of course made Portman Road into something of a fortress. Only Sheffield Wednesday had a better points-per-game at home in their last 23 matches than Town (an astonishing W11 D1 L1 at Hillsborough, compared to Town’s W7 D3 L1 at Portman Road).
However, we also failed to score in 30% of games in the second half of the season, highlighting what we all know was the problem. Even sides like Lincoln and Cheltenham did better than this. The question will be whether this can be rectified next season while keeping the impressive defensive record.
Elsewhere, there were some remarkable statistics. We should highlight Rotherham’s astonishing 15 clean sheets out of 23 away from home, Wigan’s W10 D1 L1 away record in the first half of the season, MK Dons’ overall W15 D5 L3 record in the second half, and AFC Wimbledon’s bizarre W0 D11 L12 at the same time.
For me though, the story of this League One season lies in the goal difference column of the final table. Everyone down to Ipswich in 11th place has +17 or better. Everyone below has –4 or worse. It really was a division of two halves.