Woods ready to fill in as injuries hit PNE hard

Calum Woods could be regarded in the PNE dressing room as something of an endangered species at the moment.
Calum Woods in action for Preston against Birmingham in SeptemberCalum Woods in action for Preston against Birmingham in September
Calum Woods in action for Preston against Birmingham in September

Injuries, suspension and illness have left centre-backs in short supply for Preston’s meeting with Aston Villa at Deepdale.

Woods is one of only two available to Alex Neil and even he is having to display his versatility by playing in the middle.

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A full-back by trade, the Scouser played in the middle in Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to Brentford.

Paul Huntington was his centre-half partner against the Bees. For Villa’s visit it will in all likelihood be Andy Boyle.

Huntington is serving a one-match ban for reaching five yellow cards, Ben Davies is recovering from surgery to remove his appendix, while Tommy Spurr went under the knife recently to repair a damaged medial ligament.

On top of that, Tom Clarke has been missing since April due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

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Greg Cunningham, who could have been an option in the middle in an emergency, is also ruled out long-term.

Selection issues and injuries are part of the game but it has to be said that North End have had some rotten luck with the absences all centred on one area of the pitch.

It will ease slightly for Saturday’s trip to Ipswich, Huntington being back from suspension.

But it is likely to be later next month when Davies has recovered from surgery that the numbers will really start recovering.

So what does Woods think of the shortage at the back?

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“We have got quite a few injuries at the minute and they have all come in one part of the team,” said Woods.

“It is unfortunate but we have to get on with it and get ready to face Aston Villa.

“Most of the lads who are out at the moment are very experienced too.

“What this does do is provide an opportunity for others.

“People are ready to step in and do a job.”

Woods is happy to take centre stage in Preston’s back four.

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It is not a totally alien role for him, even though the vast majority of his appearances have come at right-back or left-back.

Said Woods: “I can play anywhere across the back and will play where the gaffer wants me to.

“I want to be playing in the team regularly and if that means in the middle, I will do a job for the team.

“I’ve played as a centre-back a couple of times here before, although more when we played three at the back rather than a two.

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“Apart from the result on Saturday, I enjoyed playing in the middle.

“You have to read the game a bit differently from there and it does take a bit of time to settle in there.”

In line with the recent spate of casualties, even Woods did not emerge from the Brentford game totally unscathed.

He took a bang on the bridge of the nose which left a couple of cuts and some bruising.

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In fact, Brentford scored their second goal when Woods was on the touchline waiting to be waved back on to the pitch by referee David Coote after treatment.

“I’ve broken my nose in the past so this didn’t make it any worse,” said Woods.

“One of their lads caught me with his arm when we were challenging for the ball and I got a bit of a whack.

“I’m sure it’s not altered my looks in any way!”

Naturally, Woods was very disappointed to finish on the losing side against the Bees.

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It was PNE’s first home defeat since April, Deepdale having been a happy hunting ground this season.

Said Woods: “The defeat to Brentford was a tough one to take.

“I thought we could have got something out of it to be honest.

“At times the play was with us, at other times Brentford got on top a bit more.

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“We had opportunities in the game to take the lead but didn’t take those chances.

“To equalise twice and not get something out of it was disappointing.

“We play Villa now, who are one of the big clubs in the division.

“They have got a lot of quality in their team but so have we.

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“This is the sort of game everyone wants to play in and we have to be good enough on the night.

“ We’ve had a look at what happened on Saturday and now we are focused on Villa and trying to get the better of them.”

This will be Woods’ fifth appearance since getting back to full fitness after more than a year out with damaged knee ligaments.

He tore the cruciate and medial ligament in his right knee in July 2016, ruling him out of the entire 2016/17 season.

The former Liverpool trainee has since got three starts and a run from the bench under his belt in the last six weeks.