Feel Like The First Goal Is Crucial? Here’s What The Stats Say

Credit Graham Burrell

We all know the feeling these days – if the Imps fall behind, it always feels like a long way back, but when we get the first goal, you feel like we’re still susceptible.

Felling in football can be misleading. You know what I mean; you say it feels like the players can’t be bothered, and whilst you know it’s how you feel, the truth is there’s never an instance where the players genuinely can’t be bothered. However, if that’s how you feel, then it’s right. So, is our feeling about the goals right? It feels to me like we’ve thrown a lot of leads away this season, but is it truth?

I’ve picked a couple of ‘feelings’ and looked at the stats to see if it’s true.

Credit Graham Burrell

We Feel Like We Give Away a Lead a Lot

According to the stats, it is, and it isn’t right to feel this way. We’ve led 11 times in matches this campaign, and only three teams have taken the lead fewer times – Cambridge, MK Dons and Accrington. However, when we do get that opening goal, it is a good sign – we haven’t lost a league game this campaign in which we’ve taken the lead. We’ve won six and drawn five. Only five other clubs have not lost from a leading position, namely Port Vale, Sheff Weds, Barnsley, Oxford and Portsmouth. However, out of those teams, we have the fewest points from matches in which we’ve taken the lead. This is partially a good sign, as despite the frustration of losing a lead and drawing a game, it shows that we’re quite resilient in not being beaten from a winning position.

We Feel Like We’re Done When We Concede

However, on the other side, we’re not good when conceding the first goal. We have gone behind on ten occasions this season, which is actually good – only three teams have gone behind fewer times, Ipswich, Sheff Weds and Barnsley. However, when we do go behind, we do not usually come back – we’ve got three points from losing positions, and only Barnsley and MK Dons perform worse in the division. We are also one of only six teams not to have won a game in which we’ve gone behind, proving that the feeling we’re done for when we concede is correct in many instances.

Credit Graham Burrell

We Feel Like a Young Team

I went a little deeper with some of the stats, as I find them interesting, and average age caught my eye. Only Barnsley have a lower average squad age than us – is it any coincidence that they’re one of the teams that haven’t won after going behind? It seems there may be a correlation between conceding a goal, dropping heads and squad age, as Charlton, MK Dons and Forest Green haven’t won matches after falling behind and have some of the youngest squads in the division. Perhaps leaders are what is needed (hang on, that’s what I’ve said from the start of the season!).

We Feel Like We Can’t Score Late

Finally for this little stats piece, it felt to me like we tend to wilt in matches – if we haven’t scored by 60 minutes, then it becomes difficult. It seems that is also a feeling backed up by fact. Our 24 goals (the sixth-lowest total in the division) are not equally spread. We’ve scored nine in first-half normal time, 11 in second-half normal time and, oddly, four in first-half injury time. However, we have yet to strike in second-half injury time, with only Peterborough and Cambridge sharing that unwanted stat. Only two teams (Port Vale and Accrington) have scored fewer first-half goals, and only one team (Bristol Rovers) has had fewer individual scorers.

Credit Graham Burrell

What does this mean overall?

Like I’m always told, stats can say anything you want, but I think these numbers have negatives and positives. For a start, if we do get ahead, we’re a team who can fight for a lead – the trick is getting the first goal. I know we’ve drawn games from a winning position five times, but that’s not the worst outcome, and not being beaten after scoring first is a big stat. What we need to do is find goals across our team, somehow, and more of them. We do have a good building block though, a positive to grasp to, that we can get ahead and defend a lead.

However, there’s no doubt we need more resilience, especially after conceding. It’s so black and white for us – concede first, we don’t win. Score first, we don’t lose. Right there is our season in a nutshell, and with a young squad, the key is to address the confidence and ensure we have the resilience to battle back and that we take the lead more often!

Do that, and we can enjoy League One football again next season. Fail to do that, and we might be heading into our penultimate game of the season still looking nervously over our shoulder.


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