Following a vital weekend of League One action at the top of the table, we give an update on the Opta supercomputer’s projections for automatic promotion.


12 April

Portsmouth are almost there. A 3-1 home win over Shrewsbury Town last weekend followed by Derby County’s goalless draw at Wycombe Wanderers on Wednesday have seen John Mousinho’s men’s chances of promotion go up to 99.4% according to the Opta supercomputer. They can seal it on Saturday if they win away at Bolton Wanderers. Pompey also have a 96.1% chance of winning the League One title.

Derby’s chances have taken a hit after their midweek draw, though they are still favourites to join Portsmouth in the Championship. The Rams now have a 56.1% chance of doing so, while Bolton’s likelihood has risen to 34.8% after their 2-0 win at Bristol Rovers last Saturday.

After lifting the Bristol Street Motors Trophy last weekend, Peterborough United’s 3-0 victory over Port Vale back in league action on Wednesday kept their promotion hopes alive, albeit slim at 9.6%. The Posh are much likelier to be in the play-offs, which is a 90.4% possibility.

League One promotion predictor 12 April

As well as one of the three teams above them, other likely play-off participants are Barnsley (96.0%), who are out of automatic promotion contention after back-to-back 2-1 defeats to Charlton Athletic and Stevenage in the last week. Oxford United (57.4%) and Lincoln City (36.7%) seem likeliest to battle it out for the final spot. The former enjoyed a 4-0 win at Burton Albion last weekend, while the latter had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Reading. Stevenage (5.2%) and Blackpool (4.8%) maintain faint play-off hopes.

As for relegation, Carlisle United were finally confirmed as down after their 2-0 loss at Northampton Town last weekend, though did their best to drag Cheltenham Town (71.8% chance of relegation) with them after winning 1-0 at the Robins on Tuesday. Fleetwood Town’s 1-0 loss at Blackpool increased their chances to a near-certain 98.9%.

It looks to be a straight fight between Port Vale and Burton to avoid the final spot in League Two. They’re level on 40 points each with four games remaining – in 21st and 20th place, respectively, and the supercomputer can barely separate Darren Moore’s side (63.0%) from Martin Paterson’s (61.0%). Cambridge United (1.9%) and Shrewsbury (3.3%) just above them look like they should be fine.

League One Opta predictor 12 April

3 April

Leaders Portsmouth further cemented their promotion credentials by following up a 3-1 win at Wycombe Wanderers on Good Friday with a home draw against second-place Derby County on Tuesday. Owen Moxon’s stunning strike at Fratton Park earned a 2-2 draw with the Rams and increased Pompey’s promotion chances to a near-certain 98.8%, according to the Opta supercomputer.

Derby are still considered likely to join them, though were unable to improve on their previous likelihood of 73.3% over the Easter period. Paul Warne’s side did secure a 1-0 win over Blackpool on Friday before their draw at Portsmouth, and now hold a four-point lead over third-place Bolton Wanderers.

Bolton do have a game in hand, though, with a 0-0 draw at Stevenage followed by a 5-2 home win over Reading on Monday. They slightly increased their chances of sneaking into the top two to 20.6%, though a play-off spot is likelier at 79.4%.

Peterborough (6.3%) and Barnsley (1.1%) are very much outside bets for automatic promotion but near certainties for the play-offs at 93.5% and 98.1% respectively. They had similar Easter periods, with Peterborough losing 3-1 at home to bottom club Carlisle United on Friday before earning a 2-1 win at Leyton Orient on Monday, while Barnsley followed up a shock 2-0 home loss to Cambridge United with a 3-1 victory at Burton Albion.

League One promotion chances 3 April

It promises to be a tense battle for the final play-off spot, currently occupied by Lincoln City, who remain unbeaten since New Year’s Day and have now won 10 of their last 12 games (D2). Michael Skubala’s men beat Leyton Orient and Carlisle over Easter to move above Oxford United, who they are now level on points with. Lincoln now have a 48.7% chance of making the play-offs, compared to Oxford’s 38.4%. The two teams will face off on 16 April at the Kassam Stadium.

Steve Evans’ Stevenage still have an 11.7% chance of making the play-offs after a pair of 0-0 draws with Bolton and Charlton Athletic. Blackpool the only other team with a percentage chance of doing so at 2.2%, though they only picked up one point from their two Easter games.

As for the relegation battle, it looks likely to be four from five, with Carlisle not yet mathematically down even though the supercomputer considers it to be a 100% certainty to ultimately happen. The Cumbrians did enjoy only their sixth win of the League One campaign at Peterborough, before losing at home to Lincoln. Their relegation back to League Two will be confirmed if they lose at Northampton Town on Saturday.

Fleetwood Town join them in the fourth tier in 99.1% of the supercomputer’s 10,000 simulations. Back-to-back defeats to Cheltenham Town and Oxford United left Charlie Adam’s side six points from safety with five games remaining. Cheltenham themselves have better prospects as they have played two games fewer and are just two points from safety, though their home defeat to Exeter City on Monday didn’t help matters. The Robins go down in 54.6% of scenarios.

Above them, Port Vale (71.9%) and Burton (60.1%) are considered likelier to drop, with Darren Moore’s Vale following up a 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers with a 2-0 defeat at Northampton, while Burton drew 1-1 with Wigan Athletic before losing at home to Barnsley.

Cambridge (4.0%), Reading (2.9%) and Shrewsbury Town (7.2%) should all be able to stay clear of relegation.

League One Predicted Table 3 April

18 March

Portsmouth took a giant step towards automatic promotion from League One at the weekend with a 1-0 away win at fourth-place Peterborough United.

Kusini Yengi came off the bench to score the only goal of the game with 13 minutes remaining, sending John Mousinho’s side nine points clear of Bolton Wanderers in third.

With just seven games remaining, that gap has prompted the Opta supercomputer to increase Portsmouth’s chances of automatic promotion by 14.7 percentage points to 93.4%. They also won the title in 72.8% of the supercomputer’s most recent 10,000 season simulations.

League One Promotion Odds 18 March

That result ended Peterborough’s excellent five-game winning streak in League One and has seen their projected chance of automatic promotion fall to 13.1% from 31.4% before the weekend’s action.

Bolton were another side to see a big drop-off after the weekend’s action, as they lost a huge game against Derby County on Saturday afternoon.

Bolton would’ve overtaken Derby and gone second with a win at Pride Park, but a 1-0 defeat thanks to Kane Wilson’s 78th-minute header left them four points adrift of the automatic promotion spots.

That result has seen Derby’s chances of finishing inside the top two move from 52.0% to 73.3% in the Opta supercomputer’s projections. Bolton, on the other hand, fall to having just a 15.9% chance of automatic promotion to the Championship.

Across the latest supercomputer season simulations, the play-offs look likely to consist of Barnsley (94.8% likelihood of finishing between third and sixth), Peterborough (86.6%) and Bolton (84.1%), while the fourth and final place looks set to spark a close-run battle.

Oxford United average 73.8 points at the end of 2023-24 in the latest projections and look most likely to finish in sixth place, but they are closely followed by Stevenage (73.1 points), Lincoln City (72.2 points) and Blackpool (71.6 points).

League One Predictions 18 March

15 March

The top four teams play each other in League One this weekend, in what is undoubtedly the biggest matchday of action in the competition of 2023-24 so far.

League leaders Portsmouth travel to fourth-place Peterborough United, with Posh having the chance to move within six points of John Mousinho’s side with a game in hand. Elsewhere, Bolton Wanderers head to Derby County, with the hosts currently ahead of their opponents by a single point.

League One Promotion Odds 2023-24

Portsmouth’s current lead at the top of the table is giving them the edge in the Opta supercomputer automatic promotion projections. Across 10,000 season simulations ahead of tomorrow’s matches, they finished inside the top two 78.7% of the time while winning the title in over half of the sims (54.9%).

As it stands, Derby are tipped to follow Portsmouth. They won automatic promotion in more than half of the current season simulations (52.0%) and even won the title 21.1% of the time. Three wins from three games in March so far have moved them inside the top two after Bolton dropped points away at both Barnsley and Exeter with two draws earlier this month.

Peterborough started February in disastrous form, losing four successive league matches and seemingly blowing any chance of automatic promotion. However, a run of five wins in a row, including Wednesday night’s 3-1 win against play-off hopefuls Stevenage, have taken Darren Ferguson’s side within four points of the automatic promotion places and with a game in hand on each of the top three.

As a result, Peterborough are currently the third favourites for automatic promotion (31.4%), just ahead of Bolton (30.3%). That could dramatically change after Saturday’s games, however, should Bolton defeat Derby, and Peterborough lose to Portsmouth.

Barnsley are another team with a game in hand on the top three, but a shock 5-1 home defeat to play-off chasing Lincoln City last weekend dented their promotion challenge. They snuck past bottom club Carlisle United in midweek (3-2) but have seen their projected chance of automatic promotion fall to 7.7% heading into this weekend.

Neill Collins’ side are currently the most likely to finish in the play-off spots, however. They are projected to finish between third and sixth in the table 90.9% of the time, with Bolton (69.7%), Peterborough (68.5%), Derby (48.0%), Stevenage (45.4%) and Blackpool (27.8%) behind them.

At the bottom of the table, Carlisle are almost certain of relegation. They finished outside the bottom three in 0.02% of the 10,000 simulations. The most likely sides to join them in League Two next season are currently Fleetwood Town (85.1%) and Port Vale (75.7%), with Cheltenham Town (59.0%) and Cambridge United (30.4%) the only other teams to finish inside the bottom three in more than a quarter of current season simulations by the Opta supercomputer.

League One Predictions March 15

4 March

The top four sides in League One all picked up victories this weekend, with Portsmouth’s win at Fratton Park against Oxford United giving them a seven-point cushion at the top with 10 games remaining.

John Mousinho’s side have dropped just four points in their last nine games (W7 D2 L0) after a slight blip in form over the festive and New Year period, where they collected just five points from six fixtures.

The Opta supercomputer is confident of Portsmouth finishing inside the top two this season and winning automatic promotion back to the Championship. They achieved this in 80.4% of the 10,000 season simulations played out today, which is nearly double that of Barnsley (41.1%) and more than twice as often as Bolton and Derby.

Pompey still have to play each of the top four sides below them in the League One table across their final 10 games, so it’s not going to be easy.

League One Promotion Odds

Both Bolton and Derby suffered back-to-back defeats on 24 February and the following midweek League One fixtures to put a dent in their hopes for automatic promotion. Derby’s first defeat came against Barnsley, who have now moved themselves into a position where they could go just four points off Portsmouth should they win their two games in hand on the league leaders.

While Portsmouth win the League One title more often than not in the current simulations (58.5%), the second automatic promotion slot could go down to the wire.

Across the current 10,000 season simulations, Barnsley averaged 87.4 points while Bolton (87.0) and Barnsley (86.4) narrowly missed out. Peterborough are the outsiders, with an 11.7% chance of winning automatic promotion.

Three clubs will miss out in this five-way battle, and they are most likely to come up against Stevenage in the playoffs. Steve Evans’ side currently sit in the final playoff spot (6th) and finished between 3rd and 6th in 67.3% of simulations, ahead of Oxford United (17.9%) and Blackpool (14.0%).

At the bottom of the table, Carlisle were relegated 99.9% of the time, which won’t come as too much of a surprise with a 15-point gap between themselves and safety. Fleetwood Town (87.0%) and Port Vale (70.3%) are the next most likely to drop to League Two, with Cheltenham Town (43.6%) the fourth most likely side to be relegated.

League One Predictions Opta

How Does the Opta Supercomputer Model Work?

• Opta’s League Prediction model estimates the likelihood of teams finishing in each position in the competition. We can therefore see how successful a team’s season is likely to be, whether it’s their relegation or title chances.

• The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) by using betting market odds and Opta Power Rankings. The odds and rankings are based on historical and recent team performances.

• The model considers the strength of opponents by using these match outcome probabilities and simulates the remaining fixtures in the competition thousands of times. By analysing the outcome of each of these simulations, the model can see how often teams finished in each league position to create our final predictions.


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