Bury Town could have a near full-strength squad available for tomorrow’s FA Trophy clash with Grays Athletic at Ram Meadow (3pm).
It would be a far cry from Tuesday’s remarkable 2-1 victory over promotion-chasing Lewes, achieved with six first-team players absent and three full debutants in the side.
But with three of those missing back in contention and two more rated as 50/50, manager Richard Wilkins has some tough decisions to make ahead of the Blues’ bid to reach the first round proper and a potential tie with a Skrill Conference Premier team such as Cambridge United or Luton Town.
“We’re on a little bit of a roll having won six out of seven, but we do have to be very cautious,” said Wilkins, whose side lost 4-3 at the double FA Trophy winners in the Ryman League Premier Division earlier this season. “Grays have a lot of pace in the team and are physically strong, so we have to use our pace, pass the ball and try to get in the right areas to unlock them.
“We have to be very careful because they do play a lot of long balls in behind the back four and we got caught out on a couple of occasions.
“We know we can score against them, but we know it will be a tough encounter.”
Along with the chance for a big first-round tie against a professional side on November 30, the winners will pick up £4,000 in prize money.
Should Bury win, it would be just the third time in their history they have reached the first round, having bowed out to Havant and Waterlooville at that stage in 2008/09 and to Hereford United in the second round in 1970/71.
With Adam Bailey-Dennis, Billy Clark and Shane Tolley all back from suspension and the possibility of Tom Bullard (eye) and Joe Whight (knee) returning from injury — both are rated as 50/50 — Bury’s squad has a healthy look about it for the first time in several weeks.
Danny Cunningham missed the chance to make his third debut for the Blues when Saturday’s match at Billericay Town was postponed, before injuring his eye in the lead up to Tuesday’s home victory over Lewes, and will have to wait longer still having played in the FA Trophy for Leiston earlier this season.
He could return for Wednesday’s Suffolk Premier Cup quarter-final at Woodbridge Town (7.45pm).
Dual-registered Histon players Miles Smith and Jack Higgs — who signed at the end of last week and only had one training session with their new teammates before the Lewes match — have also been given permission to play and will hope to retain their places.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s victory — achieved thanks to Ryan Semple’s winner deep into stoppage time — Wilkins was delighted with his side’s new-found team spirit.
“They have gelled a lot, they get on really well and there is nobody who thinks they are better than anybody else,” he said. “Everybody works hard in training and the bottom line was there was a belief we could snatch the win.
“Considering everything, that’s a hell of a result.”
Bury (from): Bailey, Bailey-Dennis, Bridges, Bullard, Clark, Dunbar, Garnham, Higgs, Kennedy, Lampshire, Patrick, Roulston, Semple, Short, Smith, Tolley, Wales, Whight.