MARK Hughes hopes to make sure team-mate Efe Sodje endures an extended spell on the sidelines after seizing his chance to replace him in the side.

The Liverpool-born centre-back has been locked in a battle with the veteran defender for a place alongside Adam Lockwood in the starting line-up this season.

Sodje had been favoured since Hughes was substituted during the defeat at Yeovil last month, but when the former Nigerian international was sent off during Saturday’s FA Cup win over Exeter, the tables were turned once again.

Hughes came on with 30 minutes remaining and helped Bury to their first clean sheet since the opening day of the League One season, and then performed well in Tuesday’s 2-1 win at Oldham.

“I was disappointed (to be dropped), but it was the manager’s choice and I’m not the kind of player to sulk about it,” said the 25-year-old former Everton defender.

“I just had to get my head down and work hard and wait for my chance and my chance has come.

“I don’t think my performances have done me any harm and if I play on Saturday I will just keep going and hopefully stay in the team and Sodje can sit on the bench.”

Sodje was suspended for the trip to Oldham, but will be available for the visit of Portsmouth to Gigg Lane on Saturday.

Whoever manager Kevin Blackwell chooses, Hughes knows that the onus is on the defence as a unit to continue its recent improvement.

“Everyone knows that we were conceding too many,” said the centre-back.

“I don’t think it was the fact that people were doing well to score, we were just gifting them goals.

“Since the manager has come in, he has made us more solid and teams have to work for goals now.”