Charlton's last visit to Gigg Lane was in much happier times five years ago. On August 27th 2011 Chris Powell's team beat Bury 2-1 with goals from Paul Hayes and Johnnie Jackson . The win meant that the team had won four of the first five games and sat comfortably at the top of the table.
The current League 1 table (albeit calculated on alphabetical order) sees Gary Flitcroft's Bury edging Charlton into 6th place and thereby earning them a play-off semi final against Bristol Rovers. There is, however, not a great deal of optimism that The Shakers will be able to produce such form once the season proper kicks off. Last season's 16th position was achieved largely on the back of goals scored by Leon Clarke (18) and Ryan Lowe (8) but both have since departed to Sheffield United and Crewe respectively. At the moment they seem to be relying on Tom Pope for goals but he only scored 6 in 36 last season and his finest days (at Port Vale) were at League 2 level. Bury have however invested in experience during the summer. Chris Kirkland (35) has joined to keep goal. Leon Barnett (30) strengthens the defence having been released by Wigan and Neil Danns (33) will bolster midfield after ending his contract at Bolton.
Pre season has been pretty unpromising for our hosts. Defeats to Blackburn (0-1), Morecombe (0-4) and Radcliffe Borough (0-4) were followed by a 1-1 draw with Blackpool. Charlton's confidence can't be sky high but it should compare favourably with Bury's.
Worries about how competitive Charlton can be this season tend to focus on the strength of the squad rather than the first team. From the players currently available it really should not be that difficult to field a team which can beat Bury. If that team includes Ezri Konsa we can take confidence from his pre season performances that he will not let us down. The concern of many fans is that too many young players will be pushed forward to plug gaps as the season progresses and injuries take their toll.
It is unlikely that the game will be a festival of goals. Nicky Ajose knows how to score at this level but he needs a bustling striker to hold the ball up and create space for him. Lee Novak was signed for that purpose but may miss the game as a result of his hand injury. Brandon Hanlon and Joshua Umerah are strong lads but not, in my view, yet ready for League One exposure. We will be looking for Ricky Holmes or Ademola Lookman for moments of individual class and, we hope, a telling final ball. And, if all else fails, we pray for some stumbling magic from El Hadji Ba.
Charlton won't be short of support as over 800 away tickets have been sold. Some of these fans will not be attending home games so will want to make the most of their away trips. A 0-0 draw is not unlikely but would feel like a defeat. A scrappy 1-0 win would suffice for the time being.