Which goalies are rising above the defence in front of them?

Wes Foderingham, courtesy of RFC
Wes Foderingham, courtesy of RFC

written by – Rangers Report

Carolyn Wilkewho covers the NHL for Two Bearded Ladies, recently published a series a graphs that piqued my interest as a means of evaluating defences.  She used the graphs to assess individual defensemen based on the scoring chances that they were giving up & the extent to which the scoring chances were especially dangerous.

I decided to apply this concept to analyze team defensive play in the Scottish Championship.  The following graph compares a team’s Scoring Chance Against Percentage (the ratio of High Danger/Very High Danger shots they allow in relation to how many they generate) & what percentage of those shots are Very High Danger Shots (shots taken within the vicinity of the goalie’s six yard box).

Scoring Chance % Against v Very High Danger Shots Allowed

  • Rangers allow only 22% of the scoring chances in a game (meaning they generate 78% of the High/Very High Danger shots) & only 12% of those scoring chances  have been Very High Danger Shots.  This is a result of Rangers dominating possession, so often the shots they give up are on counter attacks.  Usually on counters, the shooter needs to get the shot off quickly before the defence catches up to him – hence the lack of shots coming within the vicinity of Wes Foderingham’s six-yard box.  You can see similar results for Hibs.
  • Queen of the South & Raith Rovers appear to have some real issues in the heart of their defence.  Thirty percent of the scoring chances that Queen of the South have allowed have come from Very High Danger shots.  They have deployed a 3-5-2 lineup, relying mostly on 30-year old Chris Higgins, 32-year old Andy Dowie, & 21-year old Darren Brownlie as the three defenders asked to hold down the back line.  It’s not working.  Of the 25 goals that they have allowed, 40% have come from Very High Danger shots.  That includes a league high six Very High Danger Headed goals allowed (no other team has allowed more than two).
  • Raith Rovers have actually generated the majority of scoring chances in their matches, allowing 46% of the chances against.  That’s why allowing 27% of their scoring chances against to come from Very High Danger shots is a real condemnation of Raith’s defenders.  Raith usually play a traditional 4-4-2 with 23-year old Lewis Toshney & 24-year old Kyle Benedictus playing the majority of time as the two center backs.  Like Queen of the South, they have allowed 25 goals this season & 36% of those goals have come from Very High Danger shots.  It’s far too easy for their opponents to get shots off from close range.
courtesy of SNS

Now we all know that the last line of defence for any team is their goalkeeper.  Sometimes, goalies are stranded by a leaky defence & other times their statistics are padded by strong team play in front of them.

One key indicator of how effective a keeper is comes down to how often he makes the ‘big saves’.  Ideally, you want the majority of shots against to come from outside the penalty area (i.e. Low Danger Shots).  The only team who can make that claim is Rangers, who force 53% of the shots they face to come from outside the box.

Percentage of shots allowed that come from outside the penalty box

Why is this important?  It makes life easier for the goalie.  League-wide, goalies save 83% of the shots on target taken from outside the penalty area.  Their save percentage for Scoring Chances is 0.593, meaning that goalies save 59% of the scoring chances that are on target.  The goalies that can make more ‘big saves’ on scoring chances can be a real difference-maker in a team’s ultimate fate.

The following graph looks at the ratio of scoring chances allowed in conjunction with the team’s save percentage on scoring chances.  Please note that shots that come from Medium Danger areas are not categorized as scoring chances.  These are shots that come from either side of the penalty area but are not launched from the heart of the box.  So far this season, goalies have saved 82% of these shots on target (shots coming from an angle mean that there is less of the goal to shoot at).

Scoring Chance Against % v Scoring Chance Save %

  • Wes Foderingham has a scoring chance save percentage of 0.611 which is above the league average percentage of 0.593.  Of course, his sample size is smaller than the rest of the league given that Rangers allow 22% of the scoring chances on average.  He has only faced 18 scoring chance shots on target & he has saved 11 of them.  Mark Oxley has faced the next lowest amount of scoring chances on target.  He has faced 27 shots on target from scoring chances & has saved 16 of those shots.  His scoring chance save percentage of 0.593 matches the league average.   Neither keeper is facing large amounts of scoring chances & neither has really let their team down when tested.
  • Danny Rogers is one of the biggest reasons why Falkirk is where they are in the league standings.  The on-loan keeper from Aberdeen leads the league with 0.721 save percentage on scoring chances & no other goalie is even close.
  • St. Mirren sits third from last in the league table & quite frankly, if it weren’t for the strong play of Jamie Langfield & Mark Ridgers they may be even worse.  Only Dumbarton & Alloa have a higher scoring chance allowed percentage but you can visually see the gap between the play of St. Mirren’s goalies compared to those teams.
  • Good luck to former Rangers goalie, Scott Gallacher, who made his debut for Alloa Athletic last week.  A job is a job, but this is not an ideal situation for Gallacher to step into.
  • Raith Rover’s Keith Cuthbert is the only keeper who seems to be really letting down a strong defence.  Of course, as mentioned above his defence has been porous when it comes to allowing Very High Danger shots – so  to what extent can you really blame Cuthbert?
  • Morton’s duo of Derek Gaston & Grant Adam (now with Cowdenbeath) have put in some of this season’s best performances in the Championship.  They have combined for a save percentage of 0.647 on scoring chances while seeing a high rate of scoring chances against. Adam played 738 minutes as a injury replacement for Gaston & really matched the levels of Gaston.  This probably was a catalyst for Adam leaving the club in January to be Cowdenbeath’s #1.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport

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