DEAN Saunders has hailed the return to fitness of midfielder Martin Woods as “like a new signing”.
Woods got through his first full 90 minutes for almost two years in Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over Hull City - and marked the evening with a brace of goals.
The 26-year-old has suffered a series of groin problems and admitted last year that he had broken down in tears as his injury nightmare showed no signs of relenting.
Woods, who scored from the spot after also lashing home from the edge of the area against Hull, has had several unsuccessful attempts at returning to full training over the last 18 months.
But the talented midfielder finally looks to have put his injury problems behind him after an energetic display against the Tigers.
Saunders said: “Martin’s come back this summer looking strong and it’s like having a new signing.
“He’s set himself high standards and he’s working hard day in, day out.
“He’s not missed a day of training since we came back for pre-season.
“That’s great news because he’s been injured on and off for two years.
“If he breaks down I cannot rely on him,” he added.
“I need to know that I can rely on him.
“On Tuesday night he looked a lot more comfortable on the pitch and he was full of running.
“When we were getting a bit of a chasing in the first half he was working hard and covering a lot of ground.
“His job now is to keep working hard and to force his way into the starting eleven.”
The last time Woods featured for 90 minutes was in the 4-3 defeat at Reading in October 2010.
n Saunders is expected to again run the rule over trialists Paul Quinn, Amari Morgan-Smith and Karl Hawley against Barnsley on Saturday.
Quinn was withdrawn as a precaution against Hull after feeling his hamstring tighten.