Sunday, 7 August 2016

Bury 2 v 0 Charlton Athletic

Saturday 6th August 2016
Football League One
Gigg Lane, Bury
Admission: £18.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 4037
Match Rating: 2

Today I paid my second visit to the north west on consecutive Saturdays, again taking advantage of Virgin Trains sale to bag a return ticket from London to Manchester of £20 to tick off another of the 92, with the added attraction for me of watching my team, Charlton, play in their first league game of the season.

Gigg Lane is about a 15 minute walk from Bury Metrolink tram stop, and is rather unusual in that the stadium can only be accessed from one side, where the Main Stand is located after passing through the stadium’s car park. Once inside, although the stadium has been redeveloped since the nineties, it is easy on the eye with enough quirks to avoid it being a dreaded bland modern stadium. The tall main stand towers over the rest of the stadium, offering seating in the large upper section and what appears to be a former small terrace along the bottom. A more modern looking stand is located along the other length, with the stand continuing around behind one of the goals where the away fans are located. A detached stand is located behind the remaining goal, only stretching about two thirds of the distance between corner flags, and was not in use today. There are supporting pillars along the three sides provided for home fans, with no such issue in the away end, from which views were good, as was legroom. Trees behind the unused end enhance the look of a neat and tidy stadium. The 68 page programme was good, with a toughened glossy cover, a neat and professional lay out and plenty of interesting material to read inside.

Bury finished last season in a comfortable 16th place in League One, with 57 points from their 46 league games, 11 points clear of the relegation zone and 17 points adrift of a play-offs berth. As for Charlton, following relegation from the Championship, there have been signs that the Belgian owners have finally realised the error of their ways in employing sub standard European imports, with Russell Slade taking over as manager and signing English players with good experience of League One. But entering the league season, the squad looks worryingly bare, despite a few decent signings coming in, including second top scorer in League One last season, Nicky Ajose, a defender from League One Champions Wigan in Jason Pearce, and keeper Declan Rudd, who made 11 Premiership appearances for Norwich last season. The lack of depth was there for all to see with a glance at today’s bench, made up exclusively of youngsters developing from the academy with a handful of senior appearances between them apart from wonderkid, 18 year old Ademola Lookman.

On a warm afternoon which frequently clouded over, this was not a game that will last long in the memory, as it would turn out to be a game between two rather poor teams. Although both teams had sights of goal in the first half, generally it was a tight affair, with a lack of quality on show.

Charlton started the second half well, and Ricky Holmes saw a cross shot from a very tight angle deflect off the woodwork, and debutant Lee Novak only just failed to connect with a close range tap in following a fine low cross from wide into the six yard box by Morgan Fox. On 70 minutes, it was Bury’s turn to come close to getting on the scoresheet, Danny Mayor’s looping header from a free kick forcing a terrific acrobatic save from Declan Rudd. The reprieve was brief though, as from the resulting corner, Jason Pearce barged Nathan Cameron to the floor and the referee awarded a penalty. Neil Danns slotted the ball into the bottom left corner, despite Rudd going the right way to give the home side the lead. Charlton created a couple of good moves to try and get back on level terms but they soon ran out of steam, and Bury sealed the points three minutes from time. Kelvin Etuhu struck the ball goalwards following a corner and although defender Chris Solly hacked the ball clear, it had already crossed the line.

So a disappointing start to the new season for Charlton, and unless some good quality additions to the midfield are made, it looks likely to be a season of mid-table obscurity at best for them. With Charlton fans making up more than a quarter of the total attendance, there was great support from the away end before and during the early stages of the match, and only after Bury opened the scoring did the atmosphere in the away end become a little ugly, culminating in centre back Roger Johnson shouting to the baying fans to "f*** off" and "if you don't like it don't come back". Worrying times all round that the downward slide of the club, both on and off the field, shows no signs of abating.

Video highlights of this match can be viewed by clicking here.

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