Comparing League One Starts

Courtesy Graham Burrell

After Lincoln’s blistering start I thought I would look back at previous seasons and how the tables looked at the ten-game mark and how they ended up, writes Andy Chapman.

When I started thinking about and researching this article I was looking at just the top two and where they finished, but I then thought about my pre-season best case scenario and as that was the play-offs I have expanded to look at the top six. Here are the top six clubs, complete with points tally, from the last five seasons.

2019 – 2020

10 games:

1 – Ipswich 24pts

2 – Wycombe 22pts

3 – Fleetwood 20pts

4 – Coventry City 20pts

5 – Sunderland 19pts

6 – Blackpool 19pts

Credit Graham Burrell

Season end:

Ipswich – finished the season in 10th place.

Wycombe – finished the season in 8th, thanks to PPG they got into the playoffs and managed to get promoted

Fleetwood – Finished 5th, losing to Wycombe in the playoff semi finals.

Coventry City – finished the season in 1st place.

Sunderland – finished in 7th place

Blackpool – finished in 13th place


2018 – 2019

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

10 games:

1 – Portsmouth 24pts

2 – Peterborough 23pts

3 – Doncaster 21pts

4 – Sunderland 19pts

5 – Barnsley 18pts

6 – Charlton Athletic 18pts


Season end:

Portsmouth – finished 4th, losing to Sunderland in the playoff semi finals.

Peterborough – finished 7th, one point outside of the playoffs.

Doncaster – Finished in 6th, losing to Charlton in the playoff semi final.

Sunderland – Finished in 5th, beating Portsmouth in the playoff semi finals then losing to Charlton in the final.

Barnsley – finished the season in 2nd, achieving promotion.

Charlton – Finished 3rd, beating Doncaster in the semi final and Sunderland in the final and gaining promotion.


2017 – 2018

Courtesy Graham Burrell

10 games:

1 – Shrewsbury 26pts

2 – Wigan 22pts

3 – Peterborough 20pts

4 – Bradford 20pts

5 – Scunthorpe 19pts

6 – Blackpool 18pts

Season end:

Shrewsbury – finished 3rd and lost to Rotherham in the playoff final

Wigan – finished 1st and won the league.

Peterborough – finished 9th

Bradford – Finished 11th

Scunthorpe – Finished 5th and lost to Rotherham in the playoff semi final.

Blackpool – Finished 12th.


2016 – 2017

Courtesy Graham Burrell

10 games:

1 – Scunthorpe 21pts

2 – Bury 20pts

3 – Bradford 18pts

4 – Northampton – 17pts

5 – Port Vale – 17pts

6 – Sheffield United – 17pts

Season end:

Scunthorpe – finished 3rd, losing to Millwall in the playoff semi finals.

Bury – finished 19th

Bradford – Finished 5th and lost to Millwall in the play off final.

Northampton – Finished 16th

Port Vale – Finished 21st

Sheffield United – Finished the season with 100 points and won the league.


2015 – 2016

Courtesy Graham Burrell

10 games:

1 – Burton Albion 22pts

2 – Walsall 21pts

3 – Gillingham 20pts

4 – Bury 19pts

5 – Rochdale 17pts

6 – Sheffield United 16pts

Season end:

Burton Albion – finished 2nd and we’re promoted to the Championship

Walsall – finished 3rd and lost to Barnsley in the playoff semi finals.

Gillingham – Finished 9th

Bury – Finished 14th

Rochdale – Finished 10th

Sheffield United – Finished 11th.



Credit Graham Burrell

From looking at the previous five seasons I have looked at 30 teams who were in the top 6 and then looked at what happened by the time the season ended. Based on that, and Lincoln being in the top six after 10 games the odds are;

We win the league – There is a 10% chance of this as 3 teams have won the league after being in the top 6 after 10 games. (Sheffield United, Wigan and Coventry)

We get promoted either by finishing 2nd or winning the playoffs – This is a 13% chance as 4 teams have achieved this (Burton Albion, Barnsley, Charlton and Wycombe). Based on previous years alone there is a 23% chance we get promoted.

We get into the playoffs but do not get promoted – This is the largest chunk of teams at 33% (10 teams).

We finished inside the top 10 but outside of the playoffs – There is a 20% chance of this based on 6 teams having been in the top 6 after 10 games and ending the season between 7th and 10th. Therefore we currently, again based only on previous years, have a 76% chance of finishing somewhere in the top 10.

Unfortunately, there is a 3% chance we follow Port Vale and go from top 6 to being relegated although I feel like it would take a catastrophic set of circumstances for us to follow that outcome. In terms of individual years, 2016-2017 had the biggest spread with 3 teams finishing in the top 6 at the end of the season and other 3 finishing 16th, 19th and 21st. 2018-2019 was the most successful season with all 6 teams finishing the season in top 7.

Personally, if you’d have told me at the start of the season that we had a 76% chance of finishing in the top 10 and a 23% chance that we could get promoted I would definitely have taken that and I think, looking back on the past 5 seasons, it gives us a few more positives moving forward!

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