The appointment of Russell Slade and the signing of some seasoned professionals with experience of EFL football had raised expectations when Charlton travelled to Bury for the opening game of last season, but the team's insipid performance against a small club punctured any hopes we might have had that we could simply bounce back from League 1 courtesy of our "top six budget".
By the time The Shakers came to The Valley the following February dismay had fully set in. The match was in the middle of a run of eight games without a win and Bury's 1-0 victory was the second of four consecutive defeats for Charlton as they dropped inexorably towards the bottom four.
Early season optimism has again been dashed. Wigan's vast superiority was only too evident but in many ways it was the defeat at Gillingham which was the more chastening. It looked as if the team had already run out of ideas and that it lacked sufficient physicality for the battles ahead. Despite the number of shots (23) recorded in the match statistics few of these were really threatening, and bottom of the table Gillingham had the best two chances, one of which they took. Karl Robinson was bullish about it afterwards but most supporters found it hard to share his optimism given the paucity of options available on the substitute's bench.
Bury arrive at The Valley on Saturday in the relegation places having not won since their opening day 1-0 defeat of Walsall. Away from home they have lost narrowly at Rotherham (2-3) and Fleetwood (2-3) and were well beaten 1-4 at Wigan. They did manage a 0-0 draw at Rochdale.
Nicky Ajose has had an underwhelming start at Bury (1 goal in 5 appearances) but manager Lee Clark can call on seasoned professional Jermaine Beckford and former Charlton understudy Michael Smith up front. Since joining from Preston this summer thirty three year old Beckford has already scored 4 goals in 7 games to take his career record to 162 in 403. Smith has yet to open his account for Bury but his career record of 60 goals in 223 appearances is far from shabby. Bury also recently signed Scottish winger Chris Maguire who looked very impressive for Oxford United last season.
Our record against Bury is dismal, particularly at home. Our last win against them at The Valley was over fifty years ago - in October 1966 when Ron Saunders scored a hat trick in a 4-0 win. Since then we have managed to beat them just twice in thirteen attempts. At home we have managed three draws and suffered three 0-1 defeats and have scored just once against them in the last five games.
Ricky Holmes must have set some sort of record by picking up five yellow cards in the first eight games of the season and it will be interesting to see how the team copes without him. Karl Robinson has said that Ben Reeves might play some part in the game but that he isn't ready to start yet. He has also said that there is no "doom and gloom" on the training ground after the Gillingham defeat.
The match hardly sets the pulse racing and the attendance is likely to be poor. A win would see Charlton back in the top six and, with away games at Walsall and Fleetwood to come, three points on Saturday would seem to be essential. The fans' generally supportive mood would be severely tested by anything less. The team of 2017 is already five points behind Chris Powell's team of 2011/12 at this stage and we hadn't even heard of Yann Kermorgant in September 2011.
We fear another draw but hope for a narrow win. Where is Ron Saunders when you need him?