Woods return to PNE side ends long injury absence
Calum Woods' return to the Preston North End side at Birmingham City was both welcome and long overdue for the right-back.
It was his first start for 16 months – since the final day of the 2015/16 season – a serious knee injury in the meantime having kept him out.
After coming on as a sub late in last week’s 3-0 win over Cardiff City, Woods got the nod to start at St Andrews.
His return came hot on the heels of fellow long-term absentee John Welsh.
The Scouse pair have been company for one another in the gym as they battled back from injury.
Welsh had started his first game for 11 months against Cardiff, then came on as a sub at Birmingham.
North End manager Alex Neil said: “We had John Welsh coming back after nearly a year out and now Calum has played for the first time in more than a year.
“That is the type of thing we have had to cope with and this squad have taken it all in their stride.
“Anyone coming back into the team has done equally as well as the guy before them.
“I was really pleased to see Calum back out there on the pitch.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t last the full game because he ran out of steam.
“We got John Welsh on the pitch again, he came on to help us see the game through in the middle of the pitch.
“That’s two more lads back now, ready to play their part in what we want to do.”
It has been a long road to recovery for Woods who was in the PNE team which won the play-off final at Wembley in May 2015.
He tore the cruciate and medial ligaments in his right knee during a pre-season game at Oldham in July last year.
Straight away a long absence was predicted, last season written off.
He steadily worked his way back to full fitness and is now back in the first-team picture.
At Birmingham he played in place of the injured Darnell Fisher, given the nod ahead of Marnick Vermijl.
When Woods’ race was run in the final 10 minutes, it was Vermijl who came off the bench to replace him.
Fisher was sidelined by a groin injury suffered during the Cardiff game.
It ended his ever-present run at right-back in Preston’s Championship games this season.
With Fisher’s injury being described by Neil as tightness in the groin muscle rather than anything too serious, he could be back this weekend.