Which Premiership teams are best at seeing out a lead?

Which Premiership teams are best at seeing out a lead?

By James Cairney

It’s often said that the sign of a good team is when you pick up points even when you’re not playing particularly well. Whether it’s grinding out a win after you’ve nicked a lead or coming from behind to pick up all three points in a dramatic rally, the lesson is the same: good teams find a way to win.


Here at TheTwoPointOne, this got us thinking. Which teams are the best at seeing out a lead, and which sides really struggle to do so? The table below shows how many points each Premiership club has earned in games where they’ve taken the lead.



As we can see, this is almost identical to the league table. There are a couple of noteworthy exceptions – Thistle have picked up a couple more points from winning positions than Ross County have, while St Johnstone and Motherwell switch places in this table. But apart from that, it’s virtually indistinguishable from the Premiership standings.


This is to be expected. After all, teams tend to win in matches where they take the lead and this happens far more often than not. The majority of points that a team earns will come in matches where they take the lead, so it’s unsurprising that the table is so similar to the actual Premiership standings.


This method gives the Premiership’s better sides a huge advantage – after all, if Celtic find themselves in winning positions more than any other club, then they will surely gain more points from winning positions than anyone else. Rather than look at the overall points gained from winning positions, then, the table below demonstrates how many points a side earns per game on average in matches where they take the lead.



This time, things look a little different. Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen lead the way here – their points-per-game is marginally higher than Celtic’s. This tells us that when Aberdeen take a lead, they’re more likely to hold on to it and see the game out than any other side in the division.


Rangers fans should be worried here. The Ibrox club only average 2.33 points-per-game from winning positions, which is the seventh-best rate in the Premiership. Hearts are the only top six side who are worse at protecting a lead than the Gers.


This is in sharp contrast to St Johnstone, who are only behind Aberdeen and Celtic in this regard. Put simply, if Tommy Wright’s side go in front in a game, they generally stay that way. Saints have yet to lose a single match from a winning position this season.


So we now know which teams are best at seeing out a win, but this leads us to another question: which sides are best at picking up points in a game where they’re losing?



This table highlights the average points-per-game gained from a losing position in this year’s Premiership and there are a few surprising results here. For all the wonders that Steve Clarke has achieved at Kilmarnock, for instance, they’ve still only won two games where they weren’t the first team to score. To put it another way – if you can get in front of Clarke’s side, they’re unlikely to peg you back.


This table also shows us that Hearts are truly dreadful at gaining points from losing positions. Of the 11 fixtures where they’ve fallen behind, Craig Levein’s team have gone on to lose nine of them. This means they average 0.18 points-per-game from losing positions. This tells us that if you want to beat Hearts, it seems that the game’s first goal is likely to be the fixture’s definitive one.


Rangers fans can take heart from the fact that while they struggle to hold on to winning positions, they have the second-highest points-per-game on average from losing positions. Murty doesn’t have the consistency of Aberdeen, but you can never count Rangers out of a game – they’ll often find a way back into a match.

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