BURY boss David Flitcroft admits it was a mistake to wait so long before bolstering his ranks of centre backs following last week’s arrival of Bristol City defender Adam El-Abd on a two-month loan.

Captain Jim McNulty lost his place in the starting line-up to the 30-year-old former Brighton centre-half, who was thrown straight in for his debut on Saturday just four days after signing.

And while the Shakers fell to a fourth straight defeat, Flitcroft remained optimistic of the longer term impact El-Abd would have on his defence.

“Looking back, I have not had enough competition for those central defensive places,” said Flitcroft, who has operated a three-man defence for much of the campaign with only McNulty, Nathan Cameron and Pablo Mills to choose from.

“So I have probably brought in a central defender a little bit too late.

“Cam, Nults and Pabs have not really had any competition and with El-Abd we have got that now.”

Mills sat out Saturday’s defeat against Dagenham and Redbridge with a groin strain, but is expected to return to training this week, while Keil O’Brien is also back in contention after the summer signing from Chorley recently returned from a lengthy lay-off with a knee injury.

Flitcroft has made it clear, however, that all of his central defenders must now be on their toes if they want to retain their place in the side.

And judging by his glowing appraisal of El-Abd, they will all have to usurp Bury’s latest signing to force their way back into first-team reckoning.

“Adam, in terms of his structure and stature, is a very aggressive player,” added the Bury boss. “He is a leader. He is someone who embraces leadership and embraces being part of a back three or a back four and trying to hold people together.

“I think he would lead Cam really well and I could perm him with any one of our centre-halves (in a back two). And if I go to a three there is flexibility - Adam could play a part in that as well.

“So Adam is a fantastic character. He makes good decisions on a football pitch.”