Charlton Athletic’s trip to Gigg Lane this weekend offers a return to hallowed ground. Ground upon which Roger Johnson told supporters, “if you don’t like it, don’t fucking come”. A moment now as enshrined in the football club’s history as Clive Mendonca’s hat-trick, Jon Fortune’s header, and Chris Powell swinging on the Hillsborough crossbar.
Relations between players and supporters increasing somewhat since then. The result of some likeable characters in this side, at least offering something worth supporting. Relations between club and supporters, once Roland Duchatelet’s sale is complete, might even increase to a reasonable level soon.
Better relations between players and supporters, but that not necessarily to say that there is total faith in this side. Even after ending an eight-game winless run against Oldham Athletic last weekend. A run ended in thoroughly unconvincing fashion.
The football textbook says that ending a long run without a win provides a sudden burst of confidence, transforming fortunes and getting the side back on track. The performance in the 1-0 victory over the Latics not really providing any reassurances that that will be the case. Still some work to do to find confidence in themselves, and provide confidence to supporters.
But the form the Shakers are in is enough to provide a substantial amount of confidence. One win in 14 games, including six consecutive defeats. If the Addicks want to get themselves back into the promotion picture, they should be beating #TeamsLikeBury.
No excuses this weekend. Not injuries, not the current restrictions in place as a consequence of the takeover discussions, and not the ghost of Roger Johnson. Win it.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-1 BURY (23/09/2017)
A sluggish Charlton performance allowed Bury, sat like they do now inside the division’s bottom four, to leave The Valley with a point to their name in September.
Under a certain amount of pressure to respond after consecutive defeats to Wigan Athletic and Gillingham, the Addicks responded by allowing the Shakers to take a ninth-minute lead. An outstanding finish from Jermaine Beckford, coming inside and curling into the far top corner, but those in red were complicit in the opposition gaining an early advantage. Charlton’s backline standing off the experienced forward, giving him space, and inviting him to shoot.
A goal that was hardly the catalyst for Bury to take complete control of the game, but Robinson’s side struggled to get back into the contest. Attacking moves slow, and often blunted by wayward passes or poor delivery. The Valley crowd restless.
So Josh Magennis’ equaliser six minutes before half-time was desperately needed, and not just to level the scores. Jake Forster-Caskey’s flighted delivery from the right emphatically headed home by the Northern Ireland international. The platform set from which to take the game to the visitors in the second period.
The Addicks, however, still struggled for fluency. Bury now second best, but Charlton cutting the image of a side somewhat out-of-form. Sluggishness in their forward moves preventing them from making the most of their control of the ball.
But for all the complaints with the performance, the Addicks might well have claimed victory in the game’s final moments. Chris Solly crossing for Magennis, the forward not quite getting enough behind his header, and goalkeeper Joe Murphy able to get across his goal and push the ball behind. A decent chance, and one Murphy did well to keep out, but a win would have flattered the Addicks.
There was a reasonable amount of expectation on Bury as the season began. Made not the sort of pressure that said they had the resources to finish inside the top six. But certainly a feeling that they were League One’s dark horse.
Their recruitment impressive. Jermaine Beckford, Stephen Dawson, Joe Murphy, Eoghan O’Connell, Jay O’Shea, Rohan Ince, Chris Maguire and Harry Bunn. To name but a few of a list of signings that most third tier clubs would have been envious of.
But no third-tier club is envious of the position the Shakers find themselves in with a little over half the season complete. Bottom of the division, 11 points adrift of safety, and in the midst of a run of six consecutive defeats. Individuals of decent League One reputation, neither under Lee Clark or Chris Lucketti’s stewardship, have failed to form a collective of decent League One competitiveness.
In defence of their current form, four of those six defeats have come against sides either in the top six, or the cusp of it. But last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Plymouth Argyle, a much-improved Plymouth Argyle but still one that found themselves in a similar position to Bury in the early months of the campaign, displaying the true extent of their struggles. Two goals down before Ryan Lowe was dismissed, and only four shots managed throughout the contest.
Clawing themselves away from such a position, with such performances being punished with such results, seems an unlikely task.
Eight rather painful affairs. Eight results that saw the Addicks fall from fourth, and five points off second with a game in hand, to ninth, and 17 points off second as well as four points off the top six. Eight games without a win finally brought to an end.
Last weekend’s 1-0 win over Oldham Athletic, a poor Oldham Athletic who shouldn’t have been able to keep themselves in the game until its final minutes, certainly wasn’t pretty. A performance as poor, if not worse, than many of those seen during the winless run. But a result desperately needed.
A momentary spark of brilliance from the returning Stephy Mavididi, marking his second Charlton debut having re-joined on loan from Arsenal with his first senior, the game’s decisive event. A moment of quality not befitting of the other 89 minutes. The other 89 minutes in which the Addicks lacked any sort of fluency, sat themselves deeper and deeper, and invited the Latics to come forward.
It not, as such, the sort of performance to inspire a concrete belief in certain change. Not least with several bodies confined to the treatment, and Robinson’s quest to recruit new bodies dented by Roland Duchatelet’s unwillingness to invest in his final days in control of the club. But you would hope it provides some sort of foundation.
Injecting a degree of confidence into a deflated squad. The move to within a point of the play-offs a reminder that the eight-game winless run hasn’t destroyed the season entirely. But improvement, a lot of it, still very much needed.
Saturday’s defeat to Plymouth provided damage beyond the scoreline, with three players unlikely to feature against the Addicks as a consequence of events at Home Park.
Ryan Lowe will certainly be absent, with the experienced forward set to serve a three-match ban having been dismissed for a foul on goalkeeper Remi Matthews. But so too could the Shakers be without winger Zeli Ismail and full-back Craig Jones. Ismail, on his first game back having returned from a loan spell at Walsall, needed to be substituted 30 minutes into the game after a heavy knock, while lasted a little less than hour having seemingly pulled his hamstring.
Should Ismail and Jones be unavailable, they’ll join goalkeeper Murphy and forward Beckford, who both made positive impacts for the Shakers in the reverse fixture, in being laid low by injury. Both players contending with knee injuries, with the latter out for the remainder of the campaign. Goalkeeper Connor Ripley (Middlesbrough) and forward James Hanson (Sheffield United) arrived on loan last week to fill the void left by Murphy and Beckford’s absence.
Bury will also be without Nicky Ajose, who is ineligible to play against his parent club. Ajose, banished under Lee Clark, has only been used sparingly by Lucketti. The forward absent from the weekend defeat to Plymouth, with five other loanees in the matchday squad.
Charlton are likely to travel to Bury with a number of key players still absent from their matchday squad.
Chris Solly (calf) and Jason Pearce (knee) remain out, Jake Forster-Caskey is expected to be unavailable for several weeks with a hamstring issue, and, though his return isn’t too far away, the trip to Gigg Lane will come too soon for Tariqe Fosu.
Billy Clarke also remains absent, as he begins recovery from a season-ending knee injury following an operation, while it seems only a matter of time before Leon Best’s departure is announced as a consequence of his own season-ending knee injury.
And Karlan Ahearne-Grant became the latest victim of this injury curse, having hobbled off during the midweek Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Oxford United.
KEY BATTLE – WINNING. JUST WINNING
Let’s not lie to ourselves here. Saturday’s victory was a pretty gruesome one. Like being offered £1,000 by something that looks like a merging of Iain Dowie and Alan Pardew, and needing to tentatively hold your hand out with closed eyes in order to receive it.
But it would still be £1,000 gained. Saturday was still three points gained. Still a first victory in seven decades, or nine games if you’re interested in actual truths.
The problem being that, given the nature of the victory, it doesn’t feel you with reassurance that a corner is about to be turned. Not least when injuries, the restrictions placed on Robinson in his quest for new bodies, and individual form remains concerning. One moment of excellent skill from a single player, before just about grinding out victory against dire opposition, hardly inspiring in the grand scheme of things.
And so believing a single, unconvincing win will alter the course of the campaign is questionable. Confidence will increase, but not to the extent that an eight-game winless run is forgotten, and the side is injected with a spark that means a return to promotion-worthy performances. It’s difficult to see dramatic, immediate improvement.
What Saturday does offer, however, is another chance to win. Another opponent in poor form of their own, horrendous form compared to ours, who should be being beaten. They should be beaten well, but, ultimately, they should be being beaten.
For the time being, how games are won probably needs forgetting about. Just win them. Somehow.
Not sure it’ll be pretty, but they’ve lost six games in a row. Six. (Six). Bury 0-1 Charlton Athletic