BURY Town assistant manager Ben Chenery believes in-form striker John Sands can spearhead their Ryman Premier promotion charge ahead of today’s home clash against East Thurrock United.

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Sands, who moved to Ram Meadow in December 2011 from Mildenhall, has bagged 16 goals in 24 matches this term, after notching up 18 strikes last season.

The former Cambridge City forward has scored five in his last six outings, including a brace as Bury overhauled Enfield Town on New Year’s Day for a comeback 3-2 win.

He failed to breach the Leiston rearguard in an entertaining goalless draw last week, but Chenery is pinning his hopes to Sands again today as Bury, two places outside the top six but just four points off second spot, aim to close the gap on the league leaders.

“John has been excellent. Everything he is hitting is ending up in the back of the net,” said Chenery, who welcomes back manager Richard Wilkins into the dug-out after he missed their previous two league fixtures due to illness.

“He is a real threat in the box and is hard to handle. He is strong and picks out other players, bringing them into play.

“But I think there is a reason why he is playing so well at the moment – he is working harder and he is taking on board the information we are giving him.

“So he deserves all the credit and praise he is getting.

“Hopefully he will continue producing this form on the pitch and will continue getting the goals for us.

“January is an important month for us; we have a lot of games and want to get into the top six.

“We are on a good run and hopefully we can continue that [today].”

Sands launched Bury’s second-half fightback when his side defeated 15th-placed side East Thurrock in a notable 3-1 win in November.

Chenery believes that performance was typical of Bury’s ability to suddenly find top gear and rip apart their opponents.

“We were excellent that night,” said Chenery.

“We played great, free-flowing forward football,

“We were dangerous on the attack, so it’s good to know we can turn it on when we need to.

“But it will be another tough game as Thurrock are a potent and direct side like us, so it will be important we defend well too.”

Bury had not recorded a clean-sheet in their last 14 games, a run stretching to October 16, before last Saturday’s stalemate at an improving Leiston.

However, captain and centre-back Tom Bullard was forced off in the 52nd minute due to a toe injury, and Chenery admits he remains a doubt as the Blues aim to build on their new-found defensive solidity.

“Tom is an integral part of the team and a strong leader, but he is still suffering from a sore toe,” said Chenery.

“But he trained during the week and he is a brave man, so we will continue to assess before kick-off.

“We have been doing better in defence and hopefully we can pick up our third clean-sheet in a row against Thurrock.”

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