How ex-Chelsea midfielder is Hartlepool United's man of the moment
Who is your Hartlepool United player of the season so far?
Scott Loach? Of course, it has to be, despite the goals from fellow summer signing Jonathan Franks, and the run of form from Keith Watson, before his untimely injury.
But a contender for the number two spot would have to be Michael Woods.
Man of the match and match-winner in midweek against Barrow, the 27-year-old is certainly the man of the moment.
While there has been more to the revival than the former Chelsea midfielder, his restoration to the side has been no coincidence.
Hauled off at half-time in the opening match of the National League – a 1-0 home defeat to Dover – Woods spent the next five matches getting spelks in his backside.
But Craig Harrison ended that irritation by bringing him back at Guiseley, where Pools ended their wait for a first win.
He was a man inspired that Bank Holiday afternoon and has been ever since, a driving force for the team and, on Tuesday evening, the goal hero as he headed in a Nicky Deverdics cross in the seventh minute of added time to beat Barrow.
“It was frustrating,” admitted Woods, when asked about his absence from the starting XI.
“Everyone in the squad wants to be playing, but it shows the options that the gaffer has available.
“Competition does spur you on, not just on matchdays, but also during the week in training. If you don’t do it, you’ll be sitting next to the gaffer, it’s as simple as that.
“It’s down to you and, once you get the shirt, it’s yours to lose. Hopefully I can keep it a little bit longer.”
Woods is way too modest to give himself any credit, for him it has been all down to squad spirit and sheer hard work.
The stats do tell you a bit – 17 points out of the last 24 when Woods has started, compared to two from 15 in his period on the sideline.
“We got together after the Fylde game,” he recalled.
“That was a real turning point – there were a few harsh words spoken and we were locked in the dressing room for quite a while after that game.
“We’re looking forward now, we’re on a good run, but we haven’t achieved anything yet. “
Following the tough midweek battle against Barrow, Pools are braced for another difficult test against a side at the wrong end of the division.
Solihull Moors are second-bottom after a run of six games without a win and sacked their manager on Wednesday, with Liam McDonald making way for Richard Money, who was appointed a day later.
For all the Birmingham outfit may be struggling for results, Woods knows they will not be lacking in feet and inches, a trait he has seen most opponents in the National League.
“They all are,” laughed the side’s longest-serving player.
“Barrow’s team were enormous!
“The difference I’m noticing from last year is that they’re predominantly big, physical lads.
“Walking out the tunnel, I’m looking up at the most of the players again.
“That’s where the nitty gritty comes into it.
“You have to do the horrible bits of the game, to earn the right to play, then hopefully our quality will shine through.
“We have shown away from home, at Orient and Woking, that we can go to teams and take points.
“We will be going to Solihull full of belief, for sure.”
Woods’s first goal of the season – and his second ever headed effort while at Pools lifted the roof off the Vic after being “frustrated” by the visitors.
“It was bouncing at the end,” said Woods. “The fans were great.
“There was a bit of frustration at times, because they were quite hard to break down. They sat a lot of men behind the ball.
“We had some really good chances, and they did too. Louis Laing made a great block, Loachy a good save.
“They came for a point, so it makes it that little bit sweeter, getting it right at the end.”
So is a blood and snot 1-0 against Barrow as good as a sparkling afternoon against Maidstone?
“ I think so,” he said. “When you are 2-0 up or 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go, and everyone is on the ball, flying around, those games are just as enjoyable.
“But nights like Tuesday will happen.
“ You can’t tell in this league [what’s going to happen]. Everyone is beating everyone, we just need to carry on.”