"Third place with 83 points" - how professor's super computer missed out on Sheffield United's title joy

The final League One table - as predicted by a university professor.
The final League One table - as predicted by a university professor.
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Sheffield United will miss out on the League One title and automatic promotion.

That was the prediction by a university professor back in January - and now overjoyed Sheffield United fans are enjoying gloating over how his so-called "super computer" got it wrong.

Ian McHale, professor of sports analytics at the University of Salford, tasked a special computer with predicting the final football league tables at the turn of the year.

And back then, it was bad news for Blades fans, with United predicted to slip off the top spot into third and left contesting the dreaded play-offs.

However, the reality proved to be quite different with the Blades topping the table with 100 points and securing the League One title with games to spare.

The professor's computer - dubbed SAM - actually reckoned the Blades would accumulate just 83 points and finish behind winners Scunthorpe United and runners-up Bolton Wanderers.

And while Bolton finishing second with 86 points was virtually spot on, Prof McHale's "winners" Scunthorpe could only muster a third place finish with 82 points.

The programme calculated that the Blades, Millwall, Rochdale and Bradford would contest the play-offs - while in reality, only Millwall and Bradford are in the mix, with Fleetwood and Scunthorpe joining them and Rochdale missing out all together.

The computer was given the task of predicting the correct result of every match from January until the season's end - and when the results were revealed, many Blades fans weer left fuming at their side's predicted demised from top spot.

At the bottom of the table, SAM predicted Shrewsbury, Coventry, Chesterfield and Oldham would be relegated - and while he was spot on with Coventry and Chesterfield, the other two escaped with Port Vale and Swindon making the drop into League Two.

The computer also predicted Sheffield Wednesday would finish fourth and make the Championship play-offs - a prediction which looks like being pretty much spot on with the Owls occupying that particular spot with one game to go and a play-off place already in the bag.

However, the programme reckoned the Owls would finish on 76 points - they are currently on 81 and could complete the campaign with 84.

Prof McHale's table suggested the Owls would be tied on 76 with Yorkshire rivals Leeds United with Derby County and Reading seizing the final two spots with 73 points apiece, with Huddersfield Town just missing out on the end of season finale with 71 points.

But both Leeds and Derby have missed out - with Huddersfield, Fulham and Reading making it into the play-off mix.

In League Two, the computer predicted Darren Ferguson's Doncaster Rovers side would tighten their grip at the top of the table by the end of the season, finishing as league winners on 94 points ahead of Plymouth in runners-up spot.

However, Rovers relinquished their grip on top spot after a 3-1 home defeat by Exeter City on Saturday and they now go into this weekend's final games knowing only a win against Hartlepool might be enough to secure them the League Two crown.