The Football League play-offs are upon us, with League One’s Chesterfield, Preston, Sheffield United and Swindon the first to go once more into the breach.
Over the coming days Middlesbrough, Ipswich, Norwich and Brentford of the Championship and League Two quartet Plymouth, Wycombe, Stevenage and Southend will follow them into battle.
Each of the adversaries will have duelled at least twice already this term, previous form which should, by rights, prove informative in divining the likely winners of the various clashes.
However, trusting that because, for instance, Middlesbrough ran out 5-0 regular season aggregate winners over Brentford, they should be able to do the same in the play-offs, runs contrary to the ultra-pessimistic mindset of the football fan.
Instead the altogether less scientific-seeming belief that the more dominant one side is during a regular season head-to-head, the more likely their opponents are to upturn the formbook in the end-of-season afters, holds far more sway.
But which of the diverse beliefs is closer to the truth? News.bwin.com pored over all 45 matches in the play-offs across the last five campaigns to find out.
The results of our enquiries suggest that a side’s dominance of their regular season encounters with a play-off foe seems to offer only a very slight advantage.
Across the last five completed seasons, 12 of the 45 knockout ties’ contestants had ended term inseparable on league head-to-head aggregate.
Of the remaining 33 matchups, 20 ultimately went the way of the club who had come out on top during home and away divisional duelling earlier that campaign.
However, regular season aggregates were turned on their heads in a hefty 13 cases, suggesting that Preston and Sheffield Utd may not be as squeamish favourites to qualify for League One’s Wembley date as they seem.
The pair are 9/20 and 3/4 to prevail against Cheltenham and Chesterfield respectively, despite their opponents having had the better of their previous 2014/15 skirmishes.