Which is the best play-off position to secure promotion?

Date published: Monday 8th May 2017 1:25

Reading celebrate 4

The English Football League is set for another exciting conclusion to the season as the play-offs are back, but which is the best play-off place to finish?

Conventional wisdom suggests that the team which just misses out on the final automatic promotion spot is at a psychological disadvantage to the other three teams in contention.

But is that really the case, and what do the statistics show about the best place to finish the regular season?

Here we examine the results of the 21 seasons since the current play-off format was introduced in 1995-96 and pulls out the highlights.

:: Finishing in the top play-off place in each division has produced the most promoted teams in 21 years – eight in the Championship, seven in League One and 10 in League Two.

:: That statistic spells good news for Reading (Championship) and Luton (League Two), although Scunthorpe (League One) will not improve on that having already fallen at the semi-final hurdle to sixth-placed Millwall.

:: The worst position to be promoted from in the Championship is fourth. Only three teams have done so – Charlton (1998), QPR (2014) and Hull (2016). Bad news for Sheffield Wednesday?

:: Huddersfield – who finished fifth in the Championship – could become only the second club to be promoted through all three divisional play-offs. Blackpool were previously promoted from League Two (2001), League One (2007) and Championship (2010).

:: Fulham are aiming to be only the second team since 2005 to be promoted from sixth place in the Championship. Blackpool were the last team to achieve the feat in 2010.

:: Fifth position is the usually the place to avoid in League One. Only three teams have gone up from here – Stoke (2002), Sheffield Wednesday (2005) and Barnsley (2006) – but Bradford could buck the trend this year with a Wembley final against Millwall.

:: Ten teams have been promoted after finishing fourth in League Two – the best result from anywhere in the three divisions. A good omen for Luton?

:: However, eight of those promotions came in the first 10 seasons, and Fleetwood’s 2014 success is the only one from that position in the last eight years. So perhaps Hatters fans should not get too excited.

:: Look away Carlisle fans. Only Bristol Rovers (2007) and Stevenage (2011) have been promoted after finishing sixth in League Two – the lowest return of any position in the three divisions.

:: Blackpool will be encouraged by the fact that four of the last seven teams promoted via the League Two play-offs finished seventh.

Overall results:

All divisions:

First slot (third in Championship and League One, fourth in League Two): 25

Second slot (fourth in Championship and League One, fifth in League Two): 13

Third slot (fifth in Championship and League One, sixth in League Two): 11

Fourth slot (sixth in Championship and League One, seventh in League Two): 13

Championship:

Third 8

Fourth 3

Fifth 6

Sixth 4

League One:

Third 7

Fourth 6

Fifth 3

Sixth 5

League Two:

Fourth 10

Fifth 4

Sixth 2

Seventh 5

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