After a lethargic cup exit to AFC Sudbury, Richard Wilkins has labelled tomorrow’s home FA Trophy tie (3pm) as their ‘biggest game of the season’.
The Bury boss is hoping they can overcome lower-league Dereham Town and kick-start a lucrative run in the competition to fund new additions.
Exiting the Robert Dyas Isthmian Cup they won in 2012 on Tuesday night did not leave him too disappointed, but with £2,700 in prize money for the winners of tomorrow’s first-round Trophy ties, another defeat would be a totally different story.
After Bury failed to register a shot on target all game, they deservedly went out to Jamie Forshaw’s strike 13 minutes from time, shortly after Adam Baily-Dennis was giving his marching orders for the second time in 10 appearances with Wilkins’ only regret playing his strongest line-up.
“I was thinking about putting some Team Bury players in and in hindsight I should have rested a few, I thought there were some tired legs out there,” he said.
“On the whole I won’t lose too much sleep over being out of the league cup.”
Looking to carry on the momentum from their upturn in form over the last two matches, the Bury chief made one enforced change with the suspended Tom Bullard replaced by Bailey-Dennis.
It was Suffolk rivals AFC who made a strong start though, with Marcus Garnham having to block from Ben Thompson while Forshaw rippled the side netting.
Bury began to enjoy plenty of possession, but were not able to penetrate the visitors’ backline.
There was controversy in front of Sudbury’s goalmouth though in the 37th minute when Josh Carus sold Alex Archer short with a backpass and strong protests were ignored when he dived on it.
At the other end, after a poor left-footed Garnham clearance, protecting an injury on his right, he had to scramble back to claw out Thompson’s header and made a good block after Forshaw got clear.
It was more of the same after the break as Garnham pushed another Forshaw effort round the post and punched clear Ryan Henshaw’s header.
Bury were reduced to 10 men after 68 minutes when Bailey-Dennis went through the back of Thompson to earn his second yellow card in four minutes.
Nine minutes later, Forshaw, who had struggled with the offside trap, profited from a poor throw out by Garnham as Scott Mitchell fed the striker to run to the edge box and fire beyond the Bury custodian.
It looked as though more would follow, but after Ryan Semple fired past the left-hand post in a rare home chance, Thompson headed over from point-blank range.
Five minutes into stoppage time, Bury threatened to force penalties but John Kennedy lashed over the bar from a late corner.
Wilkins added: “We are two players short of where I want to be, but I think I will have more option to get them if I have a couple of wins in the Trophy, as it is not bad money.
“We need to put on a massive show against Dereham — it will be a tough game as they are a good team, but we need to make sure we take the game to them and play to the levels we have in the previous two games.”
John Sands (groin) and Joe Whight (ankle and knee) are rated 50/50, while Bullard is available again.
Bury: GARNHAM 6, Nathaniel 6, Dunbar 6, Kennedy 6, Short 6, Bailey-Dennis 5, Semple 6 (Taylor 83, 6), Bridges 6, Tolley 5 (Roulston 83, 6), Clark 6, Patrick 5 (Lampshire 60, 6).