BURY boss Richie Barker is optimistic Efe Sodje will be fit for a Galpharm return on Saturday.

The ex-Town centre-back has a knee problem which kept him out of the 8-1 friendly win at non-league Prestatyn.

Barker, who took over from Alan Knill in March to complete the Shakers’ League II promotion mission, also has concerns over midfielders Peter Sweeney and Damien Mozika, who both have groin injuries, ahead of the season-opener.

“It’s been a frustration, but it’s opened the door for others to come in and make their mark,” said Barker, whose Gigg Lane squad also includes ex-Town left-back Joe Skarz.

“I’m getting there in terms of my starting XI, but places are still available and I expect players to play for those.

“Certain positions are cemented but it doesn’t mean players behind them should give in.

“We had players who were successful last year that were probably nowhere near the starting XI at the start of the season.”

Barker has brought in former Everton, Northampton and Walsall defender Mark Hughes, who had been playing for North Queensland Fury in Australia, and signed Hull striker Mark Cullen on loan.

The 19-year-old could come face to face with KC Stadium teammate Liam Cooper, the centre-back who has joined Town on loan.

Cullen, who came through the academy ranks at Newcastle, had a loan spell at Bradford last season.

It will be Town’s first home opener in three years and Bury’s first visit to the Galpharm since they were beaten 1-0 in a League II game in December 2003.

Tranmere have handed former Town striker Lucas Akins a new one-year deal, with an option for a further year.

“I’m pleased to have sorted Lucas’s contract out and glad he’ll be part of our squad,” said boss Les Parry. “His work ethic is fantastic.”