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ITHICS Fanzine: Interesting stats about Sunderland, League One & what finishing 5th could mean

You have to go back all the way to 2006 to find the last time that the team finishing in fifth place won the League One play-off final. Is history irrelevant, and can Sunderland buck the trend?

Danny Roberts

Being a statistician in a former life, a table that I saw which appeared on the BBC Football website just a few days ago caught my attention.

The reason that Charlton are favourites to get promoted is due to the weakness of their semi-final opponents, Doncaster. And given that they won at the Keepmoat Stadium 2-1 on Sunday backs up that point.

If both ourselves and Charlton were to make it to the final, we would be the favourites to win - nut the figure to get promoted factors in our perceived ability to see off Portsmouth in the semi-final, of which we were slight underdogs.

But, this was published before the first legs were played.

BBC Sport

According to Oddschecker on Sunday evening, Portsmouth are favourites to win the second leg with odds of 13/10 an away win is slightly longer at 12/5. The draw, (which would see us through to the final) is only slightly better odds than an away win at 23/10.

However, the odds for promotion to the Championship tell a different story. Charlton are slight favourites at 6/4 and we are 15/8. Portsmouth (4/1) and Doncaster (12/1) are way down the pecking order. As I don’t understand betting odds that much, I thought I’d look to precedent as a guide.

In the last six years, the team finishing in fifth has won its semi-final first leg by a 1-0 score line twice before we did the same on Saturday.

In 2017, Bradford beat Fleetwood and managed a shutout in the return game, but lost the subsequent final to Millwall. In 2013, Sheffield United beat Yeovil in the first leg, but lost the return leg 2-0. In 2011 MK Dons finished fifth, but succumbed to the eventual promoted Peterborough in the second leg. In 2010, Fifth-place finishers Swindon won their home semi against Charlton 2-1, went on to the final and lost to Millwall.

League One Playoff Final - Barnsley v Swansea City Photo by Pool/Getty Images

We have to go back to 2006 when the fifth-placed team in League One went up via the play-offs. Barnsley actually lost 1-0 in their home leg of the semi-final against Huddersfield, but won 3-1 at the John Smith Stadium. They then won a penalty shoot out against Swansea in Cardiff to go up to the Championship.

If you’re looking for precedent as a guide for what will happen, we should have lost our home game to continue the trend set by the last team finishing fifth in League One to be promoted.

Jack Ross will say history is irrelevant, but trends do occur and are they not relevant?

We performed well in the first leg against Portsmouth, keeping a clean sheet for the first time since we beat Doncaster on Good Friday - specially impressive when playing with ten men for the last 23 minutes.

Time to make history?

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