PNE defender still has eyes on Wembley prize

Calum Woods believes Preston can beat Walsall in the JPT
Calum Woods believes Preston can beat Walsall in the JPT
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Calum Woods insists that Preston’s visit to Walsall tonight is far from mission impossible as they look to overturn a two-goal deficit and book a visit to Wembley.

It is the Saddlers who hold all the cards at the moment having won 2-0 in the first leg at Deepdale three weeks ago.

They start as firm favourites but a strong away record means that the Lilywhites are far from out of the contest.

PNE right-back Woods says there is a determination within the club to turn the tie on its head and give the 1,000 North End supporters in the away stand a night to remember.

Woods said: “It is all to play for. Being 2-0 down from the first leg, we have a lot to do but hopefully we can put in a good display and get the result we want.

“We know we have to go there and score twice at least and I think it will be an exciting night.

“When you look back at the first leg, we had a few chances to score early in the game which could have killed it off then.

“Unfortunately we did not take those chances and then Walsall scored two goals late on to win it.

“It is a big challenge ahead of us but we are determined to try and turn it around.

“We can go with a certain freedom and see what happens.

“An early goal would be nice but if we have to wait longer to score, we’ll have to do that.

“There is still a job at the back to do because while all the talk is of us trying to score, we don’t want them adding to their lead.

“At times we will have to be patient and I’m sure goals will come if we play well.

“There will be plenty of our fans there, just like there has been for all our away games this season.

“They will be playing their part in helping us to try and get through.”

The ‘away goal’ rule does not apply in the JPT, so should PNE win by a two-goal margin the tie goes straight to a penalty shoot-out.

North End head to the West Midlands (7.45pm) having won 10 of their away games this season.

Six of those have been won by a two-goal margin or more.

Balancing that out slightly, just twice in the last 12 matches have Preston scored two goals in a game.

What can also be thrown into the mix is Walsall’s poor run of late at home, with them losing the last three and conceding 10 goals.

Woods did not play in the first-leg defeat but looks to be a likely starter this evening.

He returned to the right-back slot in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United in the FA Cup, putting in a strong performance.

Said Woods: “We were a lot better against Sheffield United than in recent games.

“I thought we all played well and it was a good team performance.

“We should have won the game in my opinion, we had some chances and our general play was very good.

“I enjoyed the game. It was nice to be back in the team after a few matches out.

“My first job as a defender is to defend but I like to get forward to and support the lads further up the pitch.

“The manager likes the full-backs to push up and get forward at the right times and that suits me.

“It was a bit frustrating that we conceded the equaliser from the quickly-taken free-kick.

“I didn’t think it was a much of a free-kick in the first place but then I lost concentration when it was taken quickly.

“Before that I had got back to clear one off the line which was something I was pleased with.

“Thorsten Stuckmann got a touch on the shot I think and I just managed to read it right, getting back to kick it away.”

Woods has only been on the losing side once in his 14 games for North End.

That single defeat was at the hands of Walsall, the Saddlers beating PNE 3-1 at the Bescot Stadium in the league.

After starting nine of the first 11 matches this season, it has been a bit stop-start for the 27-year-old in recent months.

He missed all of October and November, so too the opening games of December because of hamstring and calf injuries – the calf strain was picked up in training after he had recovered from the hamstring problem.

He returned to action on Boxing Day in the 1-0 win over Barnsley, then started the FA Cup win over Norwich.

Then he had four games either on the bench or sidelines before returning to favour at the weekend.

Said Woods: “I have been in and out of the team a little bit but was pleased to get a start on Saturday.

“I have worked hard in training to keep myself right and hopefully now I can get a run of games. The competition for places is strong.”