With the injuries having stacked up at Bury Town, Christian Appleford admitted ‘the timing could not have been better’ for the arrivals of Ipswich Town youngsters Jack Lankester and Brett McGavin.
The duo, who played prominent roles in Ipswich Town Under-18s’ FA Youth Cup run this season, are both on work experience loans at Ram Meadow until the end of the season as they look to benefit from adult football.
With Ryan Jolland and Noel Aitkens both having struggled with niggling injuries in recent weeks and captain Bradley Barber (back) and Ollie Dunlop (knee) both suffering serious recurrences of their injuries, the Blues squad has been stretched to the limit.
Lankester, a Bury St Edmunds Golf Club member who plays in the number 10 role, and central midfielder McGavin, the son of former Ipswich and Bury player Steve, both went straight into the starting XI for their debuts on Saturday in a pleasing 2-1 home win over high-flying Canvey Island. Lankester, who along with McGavin is from the Bury area, marked his Blues bow with the game’s opening goal.
Assistant manager Appleford, who took charge of the team last night at home to Heybridge Swifts (see www.buryfreepress.co.uk for result) and will do so again at Maldon & Titptree on Saturday after manager Ben Chenery was taken ill on Tuesday, said: “Jack Lankester had a good debut, scoring a good goal, and Brett McGavin came in and also did well.
“They are both Bury lads. I know Lee O’Neill (Ipswich Town Academy manager) and we have always been in good communication (about them) this year.
“It was great timing as we have a couple of injuries and they are good lads who want to progress by playing men’s football.
“Everything fitted in nicely for them to come and join us.”
McGavin has been captaining the under-18s side, run by former Republic of Ireland international Alan Lee, who lives not far outside Bury and is not a stranger to taking in games at Ram Meadow, so will have been happy to know what kind of environment the duo will be going into.
Reflecting on Saturday’s win, which saw Tevan Allen add to Man-of-the-Match Lankester’s early second-half strike 19 minutes from time, before Mitchell Gilbey’s 82nd-minute effort set up a nervy finish, Appleford said: “It was really pleasing.
“You always run the risk after winning a cup semi-final in the week of dropping your levels, but the players worked really hard and showed what they can do by beating a side who have been in the top two or three all season.
“The first half was fairly even but in the second half we gained a lot more control and scored two great goals.”
The win, coming off the back of booking their place in the Suffolk Premier Cup final at Portman Road with a penalties victory over Needham Market, left Bury in 11th place and seven points adrift of the top six ahead of last night’s visit of eighth place Heybridge.
Saturday sees the Blues look to take points off another team with play-off aspirations when they travel to Maldon & Titptree (3pm), who were level on points with sixth place ahead of last night’s action.
“We have probably played better away from home this season, although our last away game (3-1 defeat at Grays Athletic) was not as successful,” said the Bury number two.
“Since then though we have put in some good results and the players are keen to finish as high as we can and beat last year’s points total.”
The 11th place finish in 2016/17 saw the Blues end with 69 points, with their current total standing at 51 (18 less) before last night, with eight games to play.
Appleford described the news of Dunlop’s recurring knee injury as ‘frustrating’ with the diminutive forward having only made four appearances, scoring one goal, since signing from AFC Sudbury ahead of Christmas.
He said captain Barber is currently seeking medical advice about his back and did not rule him out of playing again this season.