STAR striker Rory Patterson has dealt FC United a blow by leaving the club for UniBond League premier division rivals Bradford Park Avenue.
And with the Rebels also releasing hit-man Stuart Rudd, the club has now lost the two men whose goals - 154 in a total of 211 appearances - have fuelled three successive promotions.
Rory attracted attention from League outfits and several of the wealthier non-league clubs by topping the scoring charts in the UniBond first division with 41 goals in 49 outings.
And Park Avenue, backed by the riches of property developer Bob Blackburn, made 24-year-old Ulsterman Patterson an offer he could not refuse.
"It's very disappointing," said FC manager Karl Marginson, who had been hopeful of resisting the barrage of offers being made to the former Rochdale player. "But I understand the lad's decision, because he has a young family, and the money Bradford are talking is on another planet to what we can offer.
"There are professional footballers out there who don't get what Rory will be on."
Marginson has also released 32-year-old Rudd, who missed most of last season with a succession of injuries, and is now in the market for two strikers.
"With the injuries Stuart had, and with us stepping up another level, we just felt that the time was right to part company," said Karl.
"Other than that, with the financial situation, I had to raise a little bit of money, and hopefully we will be able to get someone else in."
The Rebels are hopeful of securing a deal for winger Jerome Wright, also being pursued by Park Avenue.