Starting with this match review, I’m going to try to give a slightly different spin on things so it reads less like a standard match report when I attend the game in question and more like an assessment of Bury’s players, tactics and strategy, as well as particular key points about the opposition. Please feel free to give negative or positive feedback as you see fit!
Charlton’s fans have very little to cheer at the moment and even less after they slipped to a second 1-0 home defeat in the space of a week, this time to Bury. Manager Karl Robinson claimed after the game that the Addicks had “done enough to win the game”, but in truth for all of their possession, there wasn’t a lot of creativity and a distinct lack of a cutting edge up front.
Robinson had promised changes to the side and he certainly kept his promise in that regard with the bulk of them coming in attacking areas and in a surprising move, the shape flitted between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 with Lee Novak (another player very well-regarded and known by Robinson’s opposite number Lee Clark during his spells in charge of Huddersfield and Birmingham, where he signed him for both clubs) the nominal spearhead and Joe Aribo dropping deeper to help regain possession.
Clark had kept the unsurprising signing of utility player Paul Caddis under wraps, stating that he’d actually joined on Thursday. He was then thrust straight into the starting XI in place of the once again injured Andrew Tutte. Hallam Hope was also restored to the team at Tom Pope’s expense in what would prove to be a shrewd move on the manager’s part.
Key points from the game from a Charlton point of view:
- Bury’s goal did indeed come when Charlton were on top and was a very well wrapped present for Ryan Lowe, with the defence failing to sufficiently clear twice and the ball ending up at Jacob Mellis’ feet on both occasions.
- All bar one of Charlton’s best chances came from crosses, which was unsurprising given the lack of space in the middle and the propensity of Robinson to deploy wingers in nominally more narrow attacking midfield areas.
- Lee Novak was a positive force for the home side; even though he didn’t take up lone striker positions, he would often drop a bit deeper and arrive late into the area and was unlucky not to score on one occasion from point blank range and should’ve done a lot better when he had a free header in the second half.
- Jake Forster-Caskey backed up reports of his poor form with another similar showing, but Robinson claimed he was carrying an injury.
- When Charlton changed to a 4-4-2 with the introduction of both Josh Magennis and Tony Watt, they still didn’t have that much direct threat; Magennis got the better of Cameron Burgess once and his header flashed wide and Watt’s sole contribution of note brought about a smart save from Joe Murphy.
- Stephy Mavididi was very impressive for the London side – his direct running, coupled with no shortage of skill, was the most likely source of a goal before he too succumbed to injury.
- Both sides had several good openings on the counter but badly squandered them through poor decision-making.
- Overall, Charlton played like a typical Robinson team in that they played mostly on the deck, had a slow tempo (allowing the opposition to regroup), looked dangerous from crossing areas, contrived to give away the ball fairly cheaply under little to no pressure (particularly when one of the full backs was in possession) and most importantly of all, there was no shortage of effort or endeavour but a cutting edge was badly missing.
From a Bury point of view:
- The balance between defence and attack just about worked, but the shape of the midfield was once again the weakest link in the side (and not necessarily the personnel); they played mostly like individuals, which is unsurprising as they have never all featured in the same XI before Saturday.
Assessment of individual performances:
- Joe Murphy: The difference between a win and a draw; confident in claiming crosses and even venturing well outside of his area on one occasion with a cushioned header; instinctive saves at key times helped instill confidence and reassure the players in front of him.
- Taylor Moore: Still finding his feet in an unfamilar role; however, he has a good first touch and is a confident ‘ball-playing defender’, effective at crossing from deep with both feet, which will prove to be an asset in the remaining games.
- Leon Barnett: Deployed closer to Moore than C. Burgess to Leigh on the opposite flank to help compensate for the former’s adjustment to right wing-back; cleared his lines very effectively and looked solid at all times.
- Antony Kay: Another good performance from the captain; his ability to bring the ball out of defence is being seen more in the current shape and it is helping Bury retain possession, which is absolutely vital in away games especially; suspended for tomorrow night’s game after collecting his 10th yellow in the league.
- Cameron Burgess: My first time seeing him in the flesh and he is built like a unit! I counted that he only lost two headers all game but on both occasions, Charlton nearly scored; a crunching tackler, his left foot helps bring balance to the back five.
- Greg Leigh: My personal vote for man of the match; his positioning has been called into question many times, particularly in a flat back four; however, up against the tricky Stephy Mavididi and attack-minded Nathan Byrne, he acquitted himself extremely well and was a threat himself on the counter; his stamina is clearly high as he kept going right up until the end and saved Bury with a couple of meaty tackles of his own.
- Jacob Mellis: Oddly, Bury’s toughest tackler in midfield on the day; eventually laid on the assist for Lowe but his own through balls, normally his party trick, rarely came off on this occasion.
- Paul Caddis: Buzzed about to great effect in the first half and appeared to have a good rounded skillset, with no shortage of pace, tackling or passing ability; melted away a little in the second half but that could be due to a lack of match fitness; his utility will doubtlessly be called upon several times, possibly even tomorrow night.
- Callum Styles: When he learns that there is less time to dwell on the ball in professional football as there is in the U18s, he will be the next player to leave Bury for potentially the most sizeable fee in the club’s history; his dawdling almost cost the Shakers on two or three occasions but on the other hand, he is very skillful on the ball and there were flashes of exceptional quality for a player so young; actually the deepest midfielder in most passages of play, he showed he can tackle cleanly to good effect; seemed reluctant to shoot when that might’ve been the best option once or twice; again, being primarily left-footed gives the centre of midfield a balance it has lacked for a long time.
- Hallam Hope: Employed from the start in my view with one eye on Tuesday (with one of Tom Pope, George Miller or James Vaughan coming in for him); he is a tireless worker but his first touch lets him down badly – he also lost almost all of his aerial battles; his athletic, strong build and reasonable pace helps draw fouls, which relieve pressure on the defence; presented with two great chances by Styles and Lowe and squandered both; he will run and run for Bury but is either not taking up more dangerous positions by design or because he doesn’t anticipate them himself; his powerful shot in space was unfortunately straight at Rudd.
- Ryan Lowe: Not one of his better outings in a Bury shirt; he is calmness personified in front of goal and took his one chance with aplomb because he has the intelligence to be in the right areas; however, he quickly went to ground looking for free kicks several times and was also strangely caught offside a lot in the opening exchanges; link-up play with Hope was poor – they were either too far apart (and neither were in the penalty area) or almost stepping on each other’s toes, indicating a lack of familiarity as a front two.
- George Miller (on for Lowe): Comparisons with Hope are a little off the mark; whilst they perform similar roles for the team at present, Miller is much better at taking on defenders and positive running towards goal; deceptively quick, he seldom gave Jorge Teixeira a moment’s peace and his harrying often led to Bury regaining possession; displays a positive attitude and his first touch was better today than I have witnessed previously, whilst his hold-up play was second only to Pope’s on this evidence – another asset for the football club.
- Tom Pope (on for Hope): Tracked back to help out the team in the dying embers, he also held up the ball in advanced areas to relieve pressure, had a decent shot of his own and laid the ball off expertly in passage of play with his chest; I suspect he’ll get longer than 10 minutes or so against Coventry, regardless of whether Vaughan returns.
It’s difficult to know where Charlton go from here. They have another game tomorrow evening against a side in Shrewsbury fighting for every point to keep their collective heads above the water. Robinson did mix things up more than I’d anticipated in pursuit of a positive change in fortunes and his team will need to perform better to secure a result before a difficult sequence of four games involving high scorers (at both ends) Northampton and three of the better sides in the third tier in Scunthorpe, Walsall and Bradford all at home in a row who are likely to ask more questions than Bury did. They are not yet totally safe themselves…
As for the prediction scores so far (with three points for a perfect prediction and one for the right outcome), I have a 4-1 lead over my 17 month-old son. However, there’s still all to play for with 12 games to go!