The most important goal of the match

written by – Rangers Report

Rangers finally return to the pitch this weekend & it is a safe bet that scoring the first goal will determine the ultimate fate for both teams.  Throughout this season, scoring first has been a key factor in determining the ultimate result.

Rangers team scored first in 69% of their matches & won 88% of those games.  They earned at least a point 96% of the times that they scored.

In comparison, Hibs scored first in 64% of their games – winning 83% & earning at least a point 91% of the time.

Whenever any team in the Scottish Championship scored first, they won 71% of the time & earned a point in 89% of those matches.

Here’s the final league data depicting when teams scored first in 2015-16:

Team Win Draw Loss Total Win% Draw% Loss% Scored First Rate
Rangers 22 2 1 25 0.88 0.08 0.04 0.69
Falkirk 15 9 0 24 0.63 0.38 0.00 0.67
Hibs 19 2 2 23 0.83 0.09 0.09 0.64
Raith 16 5 1 22 0.73 0.23 0.05 0.61
Morton 10 2 2 14 0.71 0.14 0.14 0.39
St. Mirren 10 5 3 18 0.56 0.28 0.17 0.50
QoS 10 0 3 13 0.77 0.00 0.23 0.36
Dumbarton 9 0 1 10 0.90 0.00 0.10 0.28
Livingston 7 1 3 11 0.64 0.09 0.27 0.31
Alloa 4 5 2 11 0.36 0.45 0.18 0.31
Totals 122 31 18 171 0.71 0.18 0.11 0.48

Falkirk didn’t lose a single game after scoring the first goal (which is awesome, right?) but their win rate was at the same level of Livingston (oh, not so awesome).  Falkirk’s inability to hold a lead after scoring first actually cost them a real chance of winning the league.  If they had the same win rate as Rangers, the Bairns’ would have have closer to 21 wins after scoring first then 15.  If they could have done that that would have swung 12 points into their favor – they finished eleven points behind Rangers.

  • These results are eerily consistent to when Benjamin Pugsley ran a similar study of the English Premier League a few years ago. In his study, EPL teams scoring first won 71% of the time, drew 17% of the time & only lost 12% of their matches when scoring first (if you didn’t notice, those numbers are basically identical to the results above).  So, if anyone tries to convince you that the first goal isn’t the most important moment in a match –  feel free to direct them here.
  • It’s interesting to note that the top four teams in the league all scored the first goal in at least 60% of their matches.  Not a single team in the bottom six managed to score first in the majority of their games.  St. Mirren was the closest, scoring first half of the time.
  • Even League One bound Alloa earned at least a point 82% of the times that they scored first.

Ultimately, the trend is that when teams scored first they walked away with points  & the best teams in the league scored first at a significantly higher rate then the rest of the field.

Even a team like Dumbarton, who finished as the third worst team in the Championship, averaged 2.70 points in the games that they scored first.  Unfortunately for them, they only scored first in ten matches (the worst rate in the league).  To make matters worst, Dumbarton only averaged 0.38 points in matches that they did not score first in (only Alloa & Livingston were worse).

It goes without saying that finding a goal scorer has to be a top priority for Stevie Aitken this summer.

Points per game- Scoring first v not scoring first

The only two teams in the Championship to average at least a point in games in which they didn’t score first were Rangers & Falkirk.  After Hibs, the average points per game when teams don’t score first is quite dismal with only Raith, Morton & Queen of the South averaging even half a point in those games.

So, who is poised to score that all-important first goal in Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final?

If results from league play hold steady it may come down to Kenny Miller or Jason Cummings.  Miller has scored the first goal in 16% of the matches he played in (only the injured Harry Forrester was better for Rangers – scoring first in 27% of his games), while Cummings scored the first goal in 38% of the matches he played in.  Jason Cummings scored the first goal eleven times this season, which is a remarkable.

So it totally makes sense that Alan Stubbs would keep him on the bench last week as Hibs fought for their promotional lives against Falkirk?

First Goal Scored in Match 2015-16

Hibs First Goal in Match

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport


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