Abysmal. Indisciplined. Bereft of ideas. Lacking cohesion. Charlton Athletic’s performance against Oxford United on Tuesday was one of the worst of the season. A tame 1-0 defeat to a mediocre mid-table side, making former Addicks loanee Conor McAleny look like a worldbeater, all but ended any play-off hopes, leaving manager Karl Robinson under intense pressure. The gaffer was booed by sections of Tuesday’s home support. His points-per-game total and win ratio is worse than any predecessor under Roland Duchâtelet bar Karel Fraeye. Among other things, he has drawn criticism for team selection (where’s Fredrik Ulvestad?), his obsession with criticising referees and his insistence on playing 4-2-3-1 despite not appearing to have the right players for that kind of formation.
Charlton have scored just seven goals from open play in Robinson’s 15 games in charge. And even the back four, solid under Russell Slade, are becoming increasingly erratic. On paper, a centre-back pairing with experience of playing in the top tiers of Italian and Portuguese football should be good enough for League 1. But Patrick Bauer and Jorge Teixeira’s midweek performances were littered with mistakes, and the German has particularly struggled over the last two months. In his Thursday press conference, Robinson appeared to indicate that Ezri Konsa is either unlikely to return against the Shakers, so the underperforming pair may keep their places, with Jason Pearce still sidelined.
Saturday will be the South London club’s last attempt to address their wretched record against Greater Manchester clubs this season. The Bury squad contains a number of former Premier League players. Top scorer James Vaughan was once the Premier League’s youngest goalscorer, while former Manchester City striker Ishmael Miller has netted against Charlton for both West Bromwich Albion and Yeovil Town. Veteran winger Jermaine Pennant signed for the club in January, and Leon Barnett has represented West Brom and Norwich City in the top flight.
New manager Lee Clark travels to SE7 with his side on a better run than their opponents. Bury are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference, and Port Vale, who sit directly behind them in 21st, have two games in hand. But the Shakers have taken seven points from nine, coming from behind to beat relegation rivals Chesterfield 2-1 on Saturday, while Charlton have picked up three points from 15.
It was the Addicks that ended Clark’s record 43-match unbeaten run with Huddersfield Town in 2011, but the current Charlton side is unrecognisable from Chris Powell’s table-toppers who won 2-0 that day. Star striker Yann Kermorgant, who opened the scoring, is helping Reading become Championship promotion challengers. And the only matchday squad member still at the club is Chris Solly, who is suspended after his red card against Oxford.
Charlton have lost 15 of their 35 past meetings with Bury, but Saturday’s game will only be the fourth since the turn of the century. The Shakers won 2-0 at Gigg Lane on the opening day of the season. Given fading play-off hopes and the nature of recent performances, it would be unsurprising to see the record for the lowest 'Football For A Fiver' attendance at The Valley broken once again. And speaking of records, more dropped points would keep Charlton on course for their lowest league finish since 1974, when Theo Foley’s side came 14th in the old third division. There are few reasons to be cheerful at The Valley at the moment.