IT would have been perfectly understandable had one of Gary Woods’ New Year resolutions been to establish himself as Doncaster Rovers’ No 1 keeper in 2012.
Woods started the season as the club’s No 1 keeper back in August after impressing the then manager Sean O’Driscoll when standing in for the injured Neil Sullivan during the second half of last season, and played the first eight games.
He was relegated to the bench, for what turned out to be O’Driscoll’s last game in charge, at Reading and spent the next the next four games as sub before being left out of the squad for the visit of Leeds United after new boss Dean Saunders brought in Wigan’s Chris Kirkland on loan.
Although a long-standing back problem cut short Kirkland’s stay, an ankle injury put paid to Woods’ hopes of regaining his place in the team.
The arrival of Wolves’ loannee Carl Ikeme meant that once again Woods found himself third choice until a freak training accident and the need for veteran Sullivan to have surgery on a hand injury saw Woods - the only senior keeper on the club’s books at the time - play his first game for Saunders in the 2-1 win over Leicester at the Keepmoat Stadium last month.
He also played in both games last week - the 3-0 Boxing Day defeat at Burnley, when he couldn’t be blamed for any of the goals, and the 4-1 New Year’s Eve defeat at Watford - where Saunders was critical of his distribution on occasions during the match.
“It was difficult being out of the side but these things sometimes happen when you get a new manager and he told me that I would get my chance but that he wanted someone with more experience at the time,” said the former Manchester United junior.
“He said it was nothing to do with my ability, just my age.
“It was hard coming back into the side against Leicester only having played a couple of practice games in three months or so but it was just a case at the end of the day of getting my chance and making the most of it.
“I thought that I’d done all right in the games that I’d played and I had been hoping to keep my place in the team.”
That he didn’t play against Barnsley on Monday was the result of the arrival of 22-year-old Spurs’ keeper David Button on a month’s loan.
Yet to start a game for Spurs, Button has played more than 50 Football League games on loan - he was at Leyton Orient before Christmas before returning to White Hart Lane following an injury.
With Ikeme back at Wolves, and Sullivan expected to be sidelined possibly until March, Woods faces a two-way battle with Button, who made a confident start in the 2-0 win over Barnsley.
Prior to Button’s arrival, Woods had been looking forward to making his debut in the FA Cup in tomorrow’s third round tie at home to League One Notts County.
He now faces an anxious wait to see who’ll be given the nod.
Irrespective of whether he starts the game or has to settle for a place on the bench, Woods is predicting a potentially tricky tie for Rovers.
“They are going well in League One so it’s going to be a tough game,” he said.
“But I think we’re happy to have had a Football League team rather than a team from the Blue Square League.
He added: “You get a lot of shocks happen in the FA Cup with lower league teams beating Championship teams but hopefully it won’t happen to us and we can have a good run in the competition.
“We don’t really want another game because we don’t want anything to affect our chances of climbing out of the relegation zone so we’ll be looking to try and get through at the first attempt.
One to watch
Striker Lee Hughes a one-time Rovers’ target during his time at Oldham, may be 35 but he’s still a threat in and around the area and took his goal tally for the season to nine on Monday as the Magpies came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at home to Huddersfield Town.
The former West Brom ace joined the Magpies in 2009 after being released by the Latics and finished the club’s top scorer with 33 goals in his first season at Meadow Lane and repeated the trick last season with 16. He is well placed to make it a hat-trick this season and is one behind Jeff Hughes.