DONCASTER Rovers’ midfielder Martin Woods is hoping that he did enough in the 0-0 draw against Hull City at the KC Stadium 10 days ago to keep his place in the side to visit Crystal Palace tomorrow.
The former Scottish Under-21 international played for more than an hour against the Tigers in his first start for 15 months following a series of operations to clear up a groin problem.
“I felt good and I think the club were pretty pleased with how I did and I was pretty pleased with myself,” said Wood.
“I surprised myself with how fit I was in a way. I thought that maybe I’d struggle a bit with my fitness and stuff.
“Possibly if Sean O’Driscoll had still been in charge then I would have come back a bit earlier but with the new manager coming in it took a bit more time to get back into the team (from the time I started back in full training) and that’s probably why I felt okay at Hull - the fact that I’d done more training. I felt good fitness-wise.
“There has obviously been a lot of changes since I last played, though there were only three new faces in the starting line-up.
“It has been a bit surreal seeing all the new faces coming in, some of whom you probably wouldn’t have expected to come to the club.
“But they are adding quality (to the squad) and hopefully we can all pull together and consolidate our Championship status.
“Whatever team the manager puts out, whether it contains more of the old players or more of the new, I’m sure that we can all blend together and start climbing the league.
“A lot of the players who have come in have played at the top level and the players who were already at the club when the gaffer took over all know the ins and outs of the league.
“Our home form has been really good in recent weeks and we need to continue with that. I’ve been watching the games and we’ve been playing with a high tempo and if we can continue to do that and play with the same spirit then I’m sure that we can continue to climb the table.
“As everyone knows our away results have been poor and we’d lost six in succession before we drew at Hull - a result which will give us more confidence going into the Palace game.
“Not that I think we’ve been lacking in confidence or that the results away from home have reflected our performances.
“I went to a few of the games and we could have picked up points but for a a couple of sending offs and some bad decisions.
“Despite the results we should always be confident away from home. I don’t think that there should be much difference whether you are home or away as long as you are set up in the right way.
“If you want to use Crystal Palace as an example, we drew 1-1 with them at home a couple of years ago but won 3-0 at Selhurst Park.”
Woods, James Hayter and Billy Sharp shared out the goals on that occasion.
Woods and Hayter are both in the frame to face the Eagles but the home side won’t have to worry about Sharp. following his recent move to Southampton.
“Obviously we are going to miss Billy,” says Woods. “But as the gaffer says it gives someone else the chance to step up to the plate.
“It is also up the rest of us to try and chip in with goals, be it defenders from such as set-pieces or midfielders and I don’t think that it is something that we are frightened of doing.
“Billy might have gone but there is still a lot of good players at the club and some strong characters.”
Teams and ref
EAGLES (possible): Speroni, Clyne, Gardner, McCarthy, Parr, Zaha, Jedinak, Dikgacoi, Ambrose, Martin, Easter. (4-4-2).
Rovers (possible): Button, O’Connor, Hird, Lockwood, Spurr, Bamoga, Stock, Oster, M Woods, Diouf, Hayter.
DARREN DEADMAN (Cheshunt): Will be taking charge of Doncaster for the second time this season. He booked five when Middlesbrough won 3-1 at Rovers in November. But that was nothing compared to the eight yellow and two reds he dished out in last month’s Charlton-Sheffield United League Ond clash. He has also twice booked nine players in a match one of which was the Sheffield Wednesday-Huddersfield 4-4 draw. In total he has booked 142 players and sent ten off.
Having beaten Palace 1-0 at home in September in manager Dean Saunders first game in charge - courtesy of a deflected shot by John Oster - Rovers will be bidding to complete their first ever double over the Eagles Park tomorrow. But Rovers have rarely found Selhurst Park a happy hunting ground and have only once clipped the Eagles’ wings in the capital. That was in the 2009-10 season when they gave their fans an early Christmas present with a 3-0 win. They banked another point from the 1-1 draw in the return in the following February. Prior to Rovers’ Championship era the teams hadn’t met in the league since 1960-61 in Division Four, though they twice met in the League Cup, Palace winning both 5-1.