Using scoring chances to evaluate teams in the Scottish Championship

Jason Holt, courtesy of SNS
Jason Holt, courtesy of SNS

written by – Rangers Report

Regular readers of this site will know that we have categorized shots to place a value on scoring opportunities, depending on where the shot comes from & how it is taken (head v foot).  These categories are: Low Danger Shots (shots coming from outside the penalty box), Medium Danger Shots (shots coming from an angle from either side inside the penalty area), High Danger Shots (shots originating from the heart of the box), & Very High Danger Shots (shots from the vicinity of the six-yard box).

For the purpose of this post, shots originating from High Danger or Very High Danger areas will be highlighted & labeled as Scoring Chances.  The information available in the Scottish Championship is limited & not every shot from these areas are equal in their threat level since we don’t know which shots were on a break & which ones were forced  through a cluster of defenders.  However, the success rates in High/Very High Danger shots is noticeable & supports labeling them as Scoring Chances.

This season shots kicked from a High Danger area has resulted in a goal 20% of the time & shots kicked from a Very High Danger area has beaten the keeper 45% of the time.  Headed shots from Very High Danger areas result in goals 27% of the time.  Headers from a High Danger area are the the only real outlier here.  Headed shots from the heart of the penalty box have only resulted in goals 7% of the time.  Conventional wisdom would classify a header from the heart of the box as a scoring chance but the data in Scottish Championship begs to differ.  I’m going to stick with conventional wisdom in this study but may eliminate High Danger Headers in the future because a 93% failure rate isn’t exactly ‘dangerous’.

For further context, shots coming from Low Danger areas have a 6% success rate this season & Medium Danger Shots have an 8% scoring rate.

Barrie McKay

Let’s begin with the raw data.  Here are per game averages of scoring chances each team is generating & how many they are allowing.

Scoring Chances per 90

  • The good teams, Rangers & Hibs, are generating high number of scoring chances while limiting chances from the opposition.  Logic would dictate that they will win more often then not.  For example, Rangers average 7.11 High/Very High Dangers shots a game & only allow 2.05 a match.  That means they are creating 78% of the scoring chances per game.
  • Falkirk is winning largely because they limit the number of scoring chances per game, given that they only allow 3.75 scoring chances per 90 minutes.  The fact that they only generate 4.35 a  game simply means their matches may be a little tedious to watch.  But you wonder why a team like Livingston, albeit on the dull side, isn’t seeing success similar to Falkirk.  To be continued…
  • Teams like Dumbarton, St. Mirren & especially Alloa Athletic are stacking the odds against them by allowing high numbers of scoring chances per game while not generating enough to balance out the opportunities.

Next, here are the Scoring Chance Ratios for each team.  Basically, what percentage of scoring chances each team generates in an average match.  Scoring chances for/(scoring chances for + scoring chances against)

Scoring Chance Ratio

Now let’s see how Scoring Chance Ratio is been played out in actual results, i.e. the difference between winning & losing.  The following provides a visual representing Scoring Chance Ratio  in relation to the average points teams earn per match.

Scoring Chance % v Points per 90

  • The line running through the heart of the graph represents the trend line.  Most teams are earning the amount of points per match that you would expect given their Scoring Chance Ratio.
  • Teams like St. Mirren & Dumbarton generate 38-39% of the scoring chances in a game.  The fact that they earn less then a point per match on average is indicative of allowing the other teams to generate a higher rate of High/Very High Danger shots.  Raith Rovers are getting 1.5 points per game which makes sense given they get the majority of scoring chances on average (53%).
  • Then, there’s Hibs & Rangers.  The fact that they earn 2.32 & 2.47 points per match makes sense given their scoring chance dominance.  If anything, Rangers have slightly underperformed given they get nearly 80% of the scoring chances.  Some of the uproar over two losses & two draws is justified given the stunning dominance of chances that they are creating.
  • Falkirk is performing above the trend to an extent given that their Scoring Chance Ratio is closer to Raith Rovers but their results are closer to Hibs.
  • If you want tangible data explaining Livingston’s sacking of Mark Burchill last month, well here you go.  Livingston is not a very good team, but they really shouldn’t be sandwiched by teams like Alloa  & Dumbarton in the standings.  Livingston basically splits scoring chances in their games (49%) & should be much closer to a team like Queen of the South in the table – but instead are currently ten points behind the mid-table team.
  • Why are teams like Livingston & Falkirk outliers here?  Does it come down to extremely good/poor finishing or really good/poor defending/goalkeeping?  Let’s look at the underlying numbers to develop some conclusions.

Below a team’s shot accuracy (how many shots they get on target) is aligned with how many Scoring Chances they create per 90 minutes.

Shot Accuracy on Scoring Chances .

  • Of the teams in the Championship, only Rangers are generating a high number of scoring chances & getting them on target at a enhanced rate.  The pace setters in the squad are Martyn Waghorn, Kenny Miller & Jason Holt.  Waghorn has 40 scoring chances, Miller 22 & Holt 16.  Waghorn & Miller have been on target with those chances 55% of the time & Holt’s shot accuracy is 69%.
  • It was a bit of a surprise to see Hibs having a shot accuracy ratio below 50% , with five teams bettering their shot accuracy rate on scoring chances.  That number is a bit misleading though.  Jason Cummings & Dominique Malonga lead Hibs in scoring chances with 26 & 17.  Cummings is getting 69% of those shots on target & Malonga has a rate of 65%.  So what’s happening?  One of the culprits is James Keatings who has only gotten 27% of his scoring chances on target.  But the biggest reason for the wasting opportunities comes from David Gray & Liam Fontaine.  They have combined for 21 scoring chances with only four hitting the target – that’s an embarrassing rate of 19%.  Of those shots, 18 have been headers & only four have challenged the keeper.  Maybe it’s time for Hibs to find another way of generating chances in the box rather then the traditional route of crossing the ball into their big defenders – because it’s not working.  The two have combined for one goal in those 21 scoring chances, which signifies a 5% success rate.
James Keatings, courtesy of Jane Barlow

Getting those scoring chances on target is one thing, which teams are finishing off those shots with goals?

Shooting Percentage on Scoring Chances

  • Notice Dumbarton completely flipped between these two past graphs.  They aren’t generating many scoring chances & when they do, they miss the target more often than not.  But….when they do get the scoring chance on target – they’re surprisingly clinical. Of their 22 scoring chances, they have scored on 14 of them.  The assumption is that they rely on counter attacks as their main mode of attack & the stats also suggest if they could get more shots on target – they may slightly improve their form. Unfortunately, they only produce 38% of the scoring chances per match – so the ceiling isn’t very high.
  • Morton have relied on Denny Johnstone as their main scoring threat this season & the former Celtic forward is seeing mixed results.  On loan from Birmingham City, Johnston is averaging 0.28 goals per 90, which isn’t that impressive for a striker.  Johnstone leads the team with 27 scoring chances, 44% of which have been on target.  However, of those 12 shots on target, he has only beaten the keeper three times (a shooting percentage of 25%).  So, that translates to scoring on 11% of his scoring chances – which is not good enough.  For a comparison, Kenny Miller has scored on 27% of his chances.
  • With regards to our previous question regarding Falkirk & Livingston – the Bairns finishing is definitely having a positive impact on  their points per game beyond what’s expected based on their Scoring Chance Ratio.  Only Hibs & Rangers are getting more of their scoring chances on target & Falkirk is finishing at a better rate then both of those teams.  Conversely, Livingston isn’t horrible when it comes to finishing their chances & actually have a slightly better then average shooting percentage.  So for Livi, finishing off their chances is not the issue & given their talent up front, they could get markedly better if they can create more chances.

Thank your defenders (Opponents Shot Accuracy on Scoring Chances

The above graph displays the shooting accuracy on scoring chances allowed by each team’s opponents.  For example, when opponents are getting scoring chances against Rangers – only 44% of those shots are testing Wes Foderingham.  This graph is called Thank your defenders given that it is safe to assume that the defenders are doing something to disrupt the shot.  Yes, some shots are just missed – but teams like Hibs, Rangers, Morton, & Raith Rovers are likely dong a better job of limiting space for the shooter or disrupting the shot in some matter.  Conversely, defenders from St. Mirren & Livingston are doing a poor job of pressuring the shooter on scoring chances.

Opposition's Shot accuracy on scoring chances

  • Good news on two fronts for Rangers supporters can be found here.  Obviously, the fact that Rangers are limiting chances comes down to their supreme advantage in possession this season, but while they have been vulnerable to counter attacks this season – the data suggests that the defence is doing a good job of keeping shots off target.  Also, the positive buzz coming out about the play of Luca Gasparotto for Morton is partly supported by these numbers.  We don’t know how much of this comes down to his play, but even though they give up a high number of scoring chances – the defenders are doing a good job of making it difficult to get those shots on target.
  • It is also interesting to note Livingston & Falkirk are limiting chances against but, in particular, Livi are really struggling to force  the shooter into a bad shot.  The fact that the opposition gets 57% of their scoring chances on target indicates a porous defence may be a real issue for Livingston this season.

Lastly, we’ll break down teams’ save percentage on scoring chances.  When High/Very High Danger shots are getting through & testing the keeper – what is their success rate in making the save?

Save percentage on scoring chances

  • Wes Foderingham & Mark Oxley are bordering the  Making the “big save” realm & the Not making the “big save” category.  To be honest, when you combine their shots on target faced on scoring chances it equals 41.  That’s only five more then the team that has faced the next fewest shots on target from High/Very High Danger shots (Raith).  So, basically their sample size is pretty small & for the most part they are “making the big save.”
  • Besides the woeful Alloa, keepers for St. Mirren & Morton are facing the most scoring chances on target then any other team.  In both cases, the end-of-the year team dinners should be lining up the drinks for Jamie Langfield, Derek Gaston & Grant Adam.  These keepers are under constant pressure & usually are coming up with the big save.  Unfortunately for Langfield, he has only saved 85% of the Low Danger shots that he has faced, while the Morton duo have saved 98% of their Low Danger Shots.
  • So, why are Falkirk & Livingston outliers when looking at their results in correlation to their Scoring Chance Ratio….well, it looks like it comes down to goalkeeping.  Livingston faces 2.05 scoring chances per game & Falkirk faces 1.90.  Danny Rogers saves 74% of those High/Very High Danger shots – which is by far the best rate in the league.  Livingston’s goalies have only saved 54% of those shots.  Only Dumbarton & Alloa’s keepers have a lower save percentage on scoring chances.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport



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