KEVIN Blackwell has challenged his threadbare Bury squad to rise to the challenge over the festive period as the beleaguered boss bids to plot a course away from the relegation places.

The Shakers manager is contending with a nightmare injury list and a transfer embargo, although he was boosted when the Football League granted the club permission to extend Gregg Wylde’s loan deal ahead of today’s derby clash at Preston.

The Wanderers winger had said he would be willing to go back to Gigg Lane for the rest of the season after his current deal ended following last Friday’s 2-2 draw at home to Shrewsbury.

Bury haven’t quite managed that, but a deal to extend his stay until the end of January was confirmed by Bury on Christmas Eve.

Despite that good news, the Shakers manager also confirmed on Monday that striker Andy Bishop (heel), midfielder Mark Carrington (groin), and on-loan defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell (ankle) would play no part in the Christmas and New Year programme.

Bishop is now expected to be out for up to eight weeks with torn ligaments on the underside of his foot.

That is in addition to defenders Phil Picken (knee) and Adam Lockwood (hip), and midfielder Shane Byrne (viral infection), who have all been ruled out for the season.

Byrne, a summer signing from Leicester, is reeling from an illness he picked up on a pre-season tour of Hong Kong, which has similar symptoms to glandular fever, and has been told he must rest.

Blackwell believes that will mean sitting out the remainder of the campaign.

But he added: “The team that we put out against Shrewsbury was all the players we had available at the club.

“And until we get this embargo sorted out, they are all the players we will have available for the forseeable future.

“But, to be fair to them, they are playing well and have shown good spirit in the last few games, so I am hoping that they will carry that into the rest of the festive programme.”