The departure of forward Shane Tolley to St Neots Town has left Bury Town with a striker crisis for their busiest period of the season.
Tolley, who only signed for the Blues in September, was one of key figures behind the Suffolk side’s recent upturn in form, netting seven goals in 16 appearances while also helping to bring the best out of those around him.
With Tolley becoming the third experienced front man to leave Ram Meadow this season — following John Sands and Richard Logan — mountains of pressure has been heaped on to unproven trio Anthony Roulston, Ryan Taylor and David Lampshire for the busy festive schedule.
“I’m devastated because I thought he was a very good player,” said manager Richard Wilkins, who was coy on the reasons for Tolley departing the club. “He came to us in a period when we were down on our knees.
“Although he struggled for the first couple of games along with everyone else, he started to score goals and was a massive player for us.”
Bury chairman Russell Ward told the Free Press last week that players had been paid their November wages late and they would have to prove they could mount a serious challenge for the Ryman Premier play-offs to stop the wage budget being cut.
However, Tolley’s departure before Saturday’s dour goalless draw at home to East Thurrock United has hurt Bury’s hopes of reaching the top five and they were due to continue their hectic run at Canvey Island on Boxing Day.
The Blues are then scheduled to face title chasers AFC Hornchurch at Ram Meadow tomorrow (3pm) before welcoming Suffolk rivals Leiston on New Year’s Day (3pm).
Looking ahead to Bury’s next two matches, Wilkins said: “Hornchurch are very strong and have some good forward players.
“They have been towards the top of the table most of the season.
“We drew 0-0 over there earlier in the season, but it’s going to be a tough ask.”
Ryan Semple (hamstring) and John Kennedy (ankle) were struggling to be fit for the trip to Canvey, while Danny Cunningham was suspended.
Cunningham should go straight back into the Blues’ squad tomorrow, but the fitness of Semple and Kennedy will be assessed.
Midfielder David Bridges was due to have the pin out of his broken finger on Christmas Eve, but remains a week or two away from a return.