EFE Sodje says the Bury players will come back stronger for tonight’s crucial Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie after they were granted leave to enjoy a Christmas break.

The veteran Shakers defender jetted to Dublin with most of the squad after Saturday’s cruel last-minute defeat at Crewe, which made it three defeats in the last three games.

A festive foray to Ireland may not be regarded as ideal preparation for a crunch midweek derby clash at home to Preston in the JPT area quarter-final, especially as the winners will earn a lucrative televised match at Coventry in the next round.

But Sodje intends to repay his manager’s trust after Kevin Blackwell gave the team-bonding exercise his blessing.

“Don’t worry about Tuesday,” the 40-year-old centre-back said after Saturday’s disappointing defeat.

“We will come back from our trip and you will see that Tuesday will be a different game.

“I’ll have my 10 Red Bulls and I’ll be fine. I’ll be charging for the Preston game.”

The players’ Christmas party was arranged before tonight’s match was rescheduled, following its postponement earlier in the month due to a waterlogged pitch.

Rather than cancelling it and risking dampening team morale further following a difficult week that also included a gruelling FA Cup replay defeat on penalties at Southend and revelations about the club’s financial problems, Blackwell decided his players needed a chance to blow off steam.

While backing the move, Sodje was also quick to allay fears that Bury’s recent slump could be terminal after the Football League imposed a transfer embargo at Gigg Lane.

Blackwell will be unable to strengthen the squad in January’s transfer window until the club repay a loan to the PFA, which was taken out to cover “cashflow issues”.

But Sodje believes the current crop of players are more than capable of rising to the challenge of hauling Bury out of the relegation zone.

And he added: “We have to stick together, that’s the thing. “The manager is here, he came here to do a job. We’re going to do the job for him and keep on fighting.”

Peter Sweeney is expected to be fit to return to the squad after being rested on Saturday, while Andy Bishop will be given a late fitness test.

Wanderers winger Gregg Wylde could also come back into the reckoning after being dropped for Saturday's defeat.

Blackwell left out the Scotland Under-21 midfielder as he juggled his loan players, with only five allowed in an matchday squad.