Sunday, 26 February 2017

Charlton Athletic 0 v 1 Bury

Saturday 25th February 2017
EFL League One
The Valley, Charlton
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 14,640
Match Rating: 3

I decided to make my first visit to The Valley since the final game of the 2014/15 season, my final season as a season ticket holder when I decided that enough was enough, and that it was just too depressing and upsetting to witness the ever desperate plight of the club under the stewardship of Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire, with the heart and soul ripped out of it. No longer wishing to be one of their "customers", I have since favoured groundhopping whilst they remain in charge, but with this game being one of the "Football for a Fiver" fixtures, I decided to return, comfortable in the knowledge that not much of my money would be heading the Belgians' way.

When I booked tickets for this fixture at the start of the month, in the West (Main) Stand, Charlton were on a reasonable run of form, unbeaten in their previous five games and winning three of those, and were six points adrift of the play-offs. Since then, they have picked up just three draws from five games, and thereby play-off ambitions have fast faded and been replaced with some nervous glances towards towards the relegation zone. After I saw a decent away point at Rochdale last Saturday, Charlton lost 0-1 at home to Oxford in midweek, following what was, by all accounts, a really dire performance. Indeed, recent form has been poor, picking up just three points from three draws from their last six league games, leaving them ten points adrift of the play-offs and eight points clear of the relegation zone. After looking to be heading for relegation following 12 straight defeats leading up to  Christmas and then only picking up two points from four games immediately afterwards, they have enjoyed an upturn of form, winning three and losing only one of their last seven wins, and they came into this game one place above the relegation zone, although only on goal difference, and having played two more games than the team immediately below them, Port Vale. They had won 9 and drawn seven of their 33 league games. Recent history between the two clubs did not favour Charlton, with Bury unbeaten in their last five visits to London, and on the opening day of this season, I travelled to Greater Manchester to witness a quite comfortable 2-0 home win against the Addicks.

On an overcast and breezy afternoon, unfortunately this was generally a very disappointing display from Charlton. Although they probably created more chances, creating more goalscoring chances, generally it was a performance lacking any creativity or cohesion. Charlton did have the ball in the back of the net on 7 minutes, when Patrick Bauer forced the ball home, but the goal was disallowed for a push. They showed further attacking intent, but it was Bury who took the lead on 21 minutes, thanks to some poor defending by the home side. Jacob Mellis ran into the penalty area, following two poor touches by Charlton defenders to allow him to do so, the ball then twice rebounded off Charlton defenders before Ryan Lowe drove the ball home from a central position 12 yards out. Charlton came closest to scoring on 32 minutes, when Jake Forster-Caskey's curling cross from deep found Lee Novak, who saw his firm header come back off the crossbar. Within a minute, Charlton came so close again, when Novak struck a loose ball goalwards, forcing a terrific reflex save from the keeper, before the loose ball was cleared.

On the hour mark, Novak again came so close to scoring, with a powerful near post header from a Ricky Holmes cross whipped in, forcing another great save by the keeper. Other chances were created, although on the break Bury forced some very good saves and in the end they held on for a valuable three point haul saw them raise a place and three points clear of the relegation zone. Charlton's poor run continues, after a strange game that saw them create plenty of decent goalscoring chances despite a poor team performance, and perhaps it is a relief that the gap to the relegation zones remained at 8 points. Sad times indeed at the club - just a few years ago, Football for a Fiver day would have attracted close to a full house, today, the ground was half full and the official attendance seemed to be ambitious at that.

Highlights of this match can be found by clicking here

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