Treble-chaser Woods targets A Vale Park victory

Calum Woods
Calum Woods
  • Calum Woods to use past experience to aid PNE’s promotion run-in
  • Utility man has been promoted twice before
  • North End travel to Port Vale on Friday night
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Calum Woods is aiming for a third promotion of his career as Preston hit the final straight in their automatic push.

Three years ago the defender was in the Huddersfield side which went up from League One under Simon Grayson’s stewardship.

When you are up there in the promotion race, it brings with it certain pressure

The season before, he helped Scottish club Dunfermline to promotion to the Scottish Premier League.

If North End take 10 points from their last four games, Woods will have his hat-trick.

The first of those four is away at Port Vale, a game in which PNE will be looking to bounce back from the disappointing 2-2 draw with Gillingham in midweek.

That result was very much in the two points dropped category, a 2-0 half-time lead surrendered to the Kent club.

The equaliser, 90 seconds into stoppage-time, was a kick in the guts and saw MK Dons close to within three points of Preston.

Winning at Vale Park would see Grayson’s men stretch their lead to six points overnight, MK in action on Saturday afternoon against Leyton Orient.

The Friday night schedule for the contest with the Valiants is due to their Potteries neighbours Stoke also being at home.

When there is a fixture clash, it is the Premier League side’s game which takes precedent.

Woods hopes that the know-how gained from two previous promotions can assist him over the next couple of weeks.

The former Liverpool trainee said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to have had two promotions at other clubs.

“Huddersfield were promoted when the gaffer was there and I went up with Dunfermline during my time in Scotland.

“When you are up there in the promotion race, it brings with it certain pressure.

“But that is the type of pressure you want and the challenge is to cope with it.”

Full-back Woods admits that the Gillingham game was a missed opportunity in terms of cementing second place.

Holding on to the lead would have kept them five points clear of MK Dons and provided that extra bit of breathing space.

“In the first half we were excellent, creating lots of chances and scoring two goals,” said Woods.

“Unfortunately in the second half we didn’t play well and that was disappointing.

“Gillingham put us under a bit of pressure – which we expected would happen – and we should have dealt with that much better.

“To concede the equaliser so late in the game was a big blow.

“Fortunately we do have a quick turn around between games which I think will benefit us.

“Rather than dwelling for too long on Tuesday night, we can focus on Port Vale and hopefully getting three points there.

“If we could win, that would put the pressure on the sides below us who play on Saturday.

“What we have to remember is that we are on a good run of form overall, 15 games unbeaten in the league.

“In the first half against Gillingham we showed what we are capable of and things were really positive.

“Why we couldn’t reproduce that in the second half, I cannot put my finger on.

“Sometimes it happens in football and it is up to us that it doesn’t happen again.

“We have that togetherness in the squad, we are all fighting together to get promoted.

“The games are running out and our target is to win all four matches.

“If we do that, we know that we will get automatic promotion.

“We have come along way to be up there in the top two and we don’t want to throw it away now.”

It has been a stop-start first season at Deepdale for Woods since last summer’s Bosman move from Huddersfield.

Injuries and competition for places have limited his involvement to 18 starts and five substitute appearances.

He started the Gillingham game at right-back, before shifting over to the left after the interval to replace the injured Scott Laird.

“It was unfortunate that Scott had to come off and hopefully he will be alright for Port Vale,” said Woods.

“I played in both full-back positions which I don’t mind doing – I’ve done both this season.

“One of the reasons we are up there this season is the strength of our squad.

“We have got good players battling for positions right the way through the squad, whoever comes in will do a good job.

“It has been like that all season, lads have come in when needed and played well.”

Woods has Scott Wiseman pushing him for the right-back slot, while Tom Clarke has played in that position. The use of the 3-5-2 system with wing-backs instead of full-backs has limited Woods’ use too.

It might be that North End opt for the three at the back system at Vale Park, it being used to decent effect against Bradford and Bristol City of late.

The likely return from injury of Paul Huntington gives an extra option in defence, Huntington having been limited to 45 minutes of action since the clattering he got in the Fleetwood game.

He got a bang on the head in a three-way collision but it has been a back injury collected at the same time which has kept him sidelined.