The previous two matches haven’t gone to the plan Charlton Athletic manager Karl Robinson devised. Bested by Wigan Athletic emphatically on home turf, they then couldn’t turn their dominance in Kent away at Gillingham into a result, succumbing to a surprise 1-0 reverse to a previously winless outfit. Nevertheless, the first eight games have yielded 15 points for the Addicks and they remain within reach of second-placed Wigan Athletic in the early table.
What better way for them to get back to winning ways than the visit of Bury; a side that haven’t won on the road in any competition since February… at the Valley. A side currently without a victory since the opening day of the season. A side that have shipped 19 goals in 10 across league and cups. A side ‘managed’ in what has sadly become the loosest possible sense by Lee Clark, who, fresh from the heaviest defeat in the club’s history to local rivals Rochdale on Tuesday, boldly claimed without any justification whatsoever that he “knows we’ll beat Charlton on Saturday”. You don’t have to be an expert at interpreting body language and the words that poured forth from his mouth to understand that tomorrow’s encounter is a must-win to keep him in post. If it somehow wasn’t that before, his rhetoric made it become as such.
In stark contrast to his opposite number
in the dugout high in the stands, you can be pretty confident when predicting both how the men in red and white will set up in terms of shape and the personnel that will be in the starting XI fulfilling those rigid roles. It is a team that will look to dominate possession and frequently shoot on sight; there will be overloads on the outside channels with Jay Dasilva and captain Lewis Solly being common sights in the final third to keep their opponents penned in to their penalty area.
Patrick Bauer is a massive threat from set plays and an imposing figure to come up against in open play for any forward. Together with Jason Pearce, they will look at all times to spread the ball wide to the full-backs to either initiate a swift counter or a slower, more deliberate approach aimed at maintaining a tempo designed to wear the Shakers out and create gaps. Ahmed Kashi will act as the pivot and the protector of the central two if the wide men are caught high up the pitch. Jake Forster-Caskey has started this campaign well and is someone to watch out for from deep if the hosts can win the majority of 50/50s and second balls in enemy territory.
Ricky Holmes needs little extra fanfare; he has already notched three goals in League One and five yellow cards, the latter figure being the joint most of anyone in the third tier. He will lead even the experienced Phil Edwards a merry dance if not closed down quickly enough but his potency from free-kicks is not to be dismissed lightly, either. Tarique Fosu plays more like a conventional winger and will stretch the play, crossing from the byline to target man Josh Magennis or the support striker Billy Clarke. Magennis will be the focal point of the attacks and retains a burst of speed. He will relish the air war with Nathan Cameron and Tom Aldred.
All of the Shakers with the exception of Mihai Dobre and Greg Leigh didn’t feature in the EFL Trophy hammering, so there are no excuses for them not being as fresh as their opponents from the capital. The centre backs will be pressed by Magennis and Clarke, so they won’t be able to dwell on the ball. Edwards might tuck in a little to combat the menace of Holmes whilst Greg Leigh will use his pace to both join the attack and cover the gaps left by Dobre.
Rohan Ince and Josh Laurent will have their work cut out to win the midfield battle; both will need to be at their best to prevent one-way traffic. Dobre was one of a paltry few to emerge with any credit on Tuesday and his direct running will worry Solly, so Kashi might double up on him. Chris Maguire will be tasked with supplying Michael Smith and Jermaine Beckford, assuming the latter recovers from his knock in time. The front four have the tools to be an excellent unit if they can be grouped together consistently – the worry of course remains immediately behind them.
As for a prediction, I’m going with a
never-before-seen 3-2 loss. In recent weeks, the Addicks have proved they can be ‘got at’ if left short in defence. On the other hand, with the likes of former Bury loanee Joe Dodoo on the bench for the home side, Robinson’s charges have the ability to outscore their opposition and will doubtlessly be buoyed by Clark already giving them their ‘team talk’. I hope it proves to be his last charge and whilst I will always want the club I support to win, I will not shed a tear if it means he loses his job because he has ruined what could’ve been a very different picture under more savvy leadership. Even a draw is unlikely to be sufficient to keep him in situ and he only can really blame himself if that is what transpires.