Ely City’s preparations for Saturday’s FA Vase tie at Northampton ON Chenecks have been dealt a massive blow after captain James Seymour took the decision to join neighbours Newmarket Town.
The Robins — in the first round proper of the competition for the first time since 2012 — already faced an uphill task due to an ever-growing injury list.
The Cambridgeshire outfit started the campaign in August with 21 senior players signed on, but Stone could have just 13 available for selection at the weekend.
And now manager Brady Stone has been forced to plan for the trip to the Old Northamptonians Sports Ground without the services of his midfielder enforcer, who has moved on after seven years at the Unwin Ground.
“Newmarket came in with a seven-day approach last week and when we spoke to James he was split about what to do,” said Stone.
“In the end he has decided that he wants a fresh challenge.
“It is a disappointing and a big blow to us, especially coming just a few days before such an important game.
“But that is what happens in football and we will have to get on with it. It will now be down to someone else to step up to the plate.”
Despite those difficulties, Stone remains hopeful that his side can put their name in the hat for Monday’s draw.
In terms of league form, there is not too much between the teams — Ely have 13 points in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, while ON Chenecks have amassed 12 in the ChromaSport United Counties League Premier Division.
Stone has opted against scouting the opponents, choosing instead to focus on Ely’s own strengths.
“If you go to watch other teams it tends to make you worry about them and what they can do,” added the boss.
“What is most important is that we focus on ourselves.
“We have our own qualities and it is important that we go into the game playing the way we want to.
“The start of the match is going to be vital. If we can keep them quiet, it gives us a platform to build on.
“Providing we can do that, we have a real chance of getting through and creating a bit of a buzz going forward.”