Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Charlton Athletic 1 v Bury 1

If you weren't there tonight, and there were 3000 or so who went missing, you could probably guess how the game panned out had the scoreline finished 0-1. That it didn't was courtesy of a stunning added-time finish from Dale Stephens which got us out of gaol and maintains our unbeaten home record.

The match started brightly enough even if the appearance of Leon Clarke upfront for the "rested" Wright-Phillips got us all half-speculating that perhaps he was on his way to a deadline day exit. We began with the urgency and drive I had hoped would sweep Bury away. There was good movement across midfield and Kermorgant was dragging the defence around, although we seemed hurried and blazed several efforts over from distance with other options evident. Perhaps our players were encouraged by the Bury goalkeeper? He was unfeasibly short and fat  and it looked hard to see how we wouldn't score with him in goal.

After twenty fruitless minutes we slowed down and Bury found their feet. They were composed going forward and came back into the match at a time when Leon Clarke could do little right and our midfield couldn't find a way through. After their first corner, we got a warning of what was to come when a ball was flighted up to Hughes who was in space but he directed his header over the bar when he perhaps should have beaten Hamer. Hamer had flapped and missed a cross moments before and we looked vulnerable. A minute or two later Bury attacked with purpose and John-Lewis was found in space with a bouncing ball and he latched onto to it and it looked like it went through our goalkeeper's hands.

One-nil at half-time and no need to panic. Clarke still couldn't hold a ball and had to play with his back to goal because he couldn't turn his defender. That seemed to make Kermorgant try too hard, if that's possible and he was over-playing balls as a result. Danny Hollands and Johnnie Jackson had quiet second-halves and it was left to Wiggins and Solly to once again take the lead and do all the running. Green wasn't on Solly's wavelength and offered little in the way of out-balls and Wiggins was left on three of four occasions to take the ball into the box himself, evading tackles as he went and firing in crosses and shots. Nothing was going for us and perhaps we should have subbed Clarke sooner. Haynes, when he did come on with twenty to go again looked like a breath of fresh air as he immediately caused panic in the Bury defence. He is a very confident and composed ball-player and has pace.

Pritchard got on for Hollands before the end as we pressed for the winner but nothing was falling for us and Bury were playing for time. I was surprised to see five minutes of added time but grateful nonetheless. Michael Morrison threw himself forward in a bid to get the winner and a ball out from our right-flank was played up to Morrison who headed on for Kermorgant who in turn managed to push on and thread it back out to Morrison who was now tanking in towards the near post from the right-hand side. Everyone in the Bury half was now at full pelt and all were drawn towards the Bury goal as Morrison fired in his low shot. It was blocked and cannoned back out mid-goal where there was no-one, except Stephens steaming in from 40 yards out. He met the ball about 30 yards from a goal packed with the players from the Morrison attack. He strode onto the ball and drove it into the top right hand corner through the gaping and cowering crowd. 

A great way to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat and it was the least we deserved in spite of a below-par showing. I won't be here for the Rochdale match but I hope it's better fare than we got this evening or we may indeed be about to face a wobble. We remain ten points clear from Huddersfield and Wednesday who managed a draw at MK Dons.


Anonymous said...

Haynes caused panic in the 'home' defence? Worrying, but good to save a point. Anyone remember Swindon a few years back when we lost 1-0.

Ken Shabby

pete said...

wasn't it the bloke with the shops, John-Lewis who scored?
their fans were singing his name on the way back to the station.

Dave said...

Ken - thanks, long day.

Dave said...

Pete - too quick off the mark. After Hughes' header I was half expecting him to pop up with another chance.....

Sciurus Carolinensis Nemesis said...

A point well earned when all's said and done but the very special nature of the equalising goal distracts from the reasons we were still behind in the 92nd minute.
Green was awful, he doesn't help Solly at all and doesn't seem to have much idea where his colleagues are or where he needs to be when he doesn't have the ball, with it at his feet he clearly has ability but he sadly lacks the rest of what's needed. For all Dale Stephens vision and very neat passing, I don;t think our midfield works as well with him in it, everything is too slow, Stephens plays too deep but isn't naturally a defensive player, he also doesn't follow up his good forward work. There was one classic example last night - he played a good pass up the right wing for Green, Bury retreated to the 18 yard line leaving 30 yards of space in front of Stephens to go for the return from Green in the inside right channel, Stephens stood still admiring his pass, Green of course fluffed his cross and the opportunity was lost simply because Stephens didn't jog forward 10 or 20 yards.
Stephens relative lightness of industry and deep-lying role also makes Hollands' life twice as hard, he has to dig in when the opposition has the ball and bomb forward when we do. Bradley Pritchard ain't quite the player Stephens is but we work much better with him. Stephens has got to put in a proper shift in that lineup or we're gonna be watching games like last night's for the rest of the season.
The least said about Leon Clarke the better.
Solly Morrison And Taylor were all as good as we've come to expect and Bradley Wiggins is just immense - by some distance the player of this season.
10 points clear and most things are very good indeed, roll on Saturday and Rochdale welcome to SE7

Herek Dales said...

Old Scabius has put his very long and considered comments re Stephens on several blogs, a cut and paste job. Whilst Stephens may not have had his best game (but what a cracking goal!) he has been out for some time and it is clear he is a cut above the rest of our midfield. Is Scabius aka Pritchard Senior?