By Kevin Nolan at Gigg Lane
Back in Lancashire again for the fourth of seven league games, Charlton gratefully preyed on the Red Rose county’s most vulnerable club and gave their faltering promotion hopes a massive boost.
Beating rock bottom Bury hardly justifies wild celebration but in juxtaposition with Charlton’s uncertain circumstances, this narrow win was perfectly timed to propel them into sixth place.
There was also a score to be settled with the Shakers who pulled off a humiliating double over the Addicks last season and followed up by snatching a bitterly-earned point at The Valley in September.
Not that this was some cocky swagger to victory because the truth is that Charlton made their usual heavy weather of squeezing past the basement dwellers. It’s a well-worn theme but their failure to score more than once prompted the familiar nervous flutters, particularly during six sadistically-added minutes. They were always comfortably on top but Bury, while remaining only 1-0 down, were encouraged to hope.
Until Mark Marshall fired home his first league goal midway through the second half, indeed, the very real possibility of a disastrous, goalless draw existed. While playing some impressive stuff, Karl Robinson’s men floated like butterflies but too often stung like them too.
An early miss by Josh Magennis typified Charlton’s ongoing problems in front of goal. With Ben Amos’ skimming punt hopping conveniently over Nathan Cameron’s head, Magennis and Ben Reeves raced clear in tandem to confront Connor Ripley. The horribly-exposed goalkeeper’ sigh of relief was heartfelt as Magennis almost obediently lobbed the glorious chance into his hands, with an apopletic Reeves ignored to his left.
It was opposing defender Cameron who came closest to scoring for the visitors before Marshall eventually did the trick. His head met Reeves’ inswinging free-kick only to send the ball past Ripley but to safety off the left-hand post. The woodwork again came to the Shakers’ rescue in the second half though only after Ripley somehow got a hand to Stephy Mavadidi’s close-range drive to brilliantly deny the Arsenal loanee what would have been the perfect, romantic end to a magical solo run.
The defiant keeper’s heroics looked like earning his side a precious point when, with two minutes left, Josh Laurent was set up by James Hanson’s clever nod-down of Tsun Dai’s cross but Bury’s best – almost only – chance was scuffed miserably wide.
Still battling the odds, Robinson can be proud that Charlton’s second successive 1-0 victory demonstrated that the spirit within his severely depleted squad remains intact.
Still lacking half a team of regular starters, he was further deprived overnight of talismanic Ricky Holmes, whose departure to Sheffield United was being worked out.
Able to name only five substitutes at Gigg Lane, he’ll be monitoring off-field developments as intently as those he has the obvious ability to influence.
These two wins, meanwhile, coincided with the discreet departure to Sheffield Wednesday of controversial Katrien Miere – a case, you might reasonably infer, of post-CEO bounce in effective action.
By the time Walsall arrive at The Valley next Saturday, Miere’s invisible but nonetheless despised mentor Roland Duchatelet might have joined her in Charlton’s annals of horrible history. A corner might already have been turned.
The late arrival of Jake Forster-Caskey from the bench provided his worried manager with additional encouragement, as did the return of unused substitute Chris Solly.
Solid contributions were made by each member of an endearingly youthful back four, while hard-grafting midfielders Reeves and Joe Aribo, whose persistence supplied the pass from the right byline which Marshall drove through a spreadeagled defence for the Addicks’ matchwinner, were outstanding.
These are difficult times for managers of lower league teams, particularly those nursing the quaint idea of building a team rather than merely preparing it for market. The Valley’s hospitality suite last Tuesday for the EFL Trophy tie against Oxford was rammed with talent scouts and agents, each equipped with identically fixed grins, practised bonhomie and a working knowledge of the price, though not neccesarily the value, of everything on offer.
You’d find more genuine empathy among a school of piranhas and it’s as well to count your fingers after shaking hands with them. But that’s the pragmatic – some call it cynical – football world we live in so it might be a good idea to relish watching, for example, the likes of Ezri Konsa before he’s whisked off to join Ademola Lookman on Everton’s bench.
And don’t get too close to Anfernee Dijksteel or Aribo. Best to keep ‘em at arm’s length. It won’t hurt as much when they move on to bigger, if not always better, things.
Charlton (4-2-3-1): Amos 6, Dijksteel 7, Konsa 8, Lennon 7, Dasilva 8, Kashi 7, Marshall 6, Reeves 8 (Hackett-Fairchild 85), Aribo 7 (Jackson 90), Mavadidi 7 (Forster-Caskey 88), Magennis 6. Not used: Phillips, Solly