RONNIE Moore admits losing Michael Woods to a season-ending injury is a “massive blow” – but he has backed Nicky Featherstone to fill the void.
Woods was stretchered off in the 1-0 win over Wimbledon at Victoria Park with a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula.
The 24-year-old, who has been the star performer in recent weeks, was rushed to hospital and underwent surgery on his right leg yesterday.
The crucial victory, which closed the gap to safety to six points, was marred by Woods’ injury with the game stopped for more than seven minutes.
Moore believes Woods could be a future captain and says he will be given all the help he needs on the road back to full fitness.
“It’s a big disappointment for everyone connected with the club because I think Michael has been exceptional,” said Moore.
“All the lads are gutted for him but we’ll give him the best medical treatment available and everyone will rally round and support him during his recovery.
“He’s got an important part to play off the pitch for the rest of the season and I’m sure he will play a significant role in the future too.”
Woods has thrived since Moore took charge, playing his best football since joining Pools last summer.
Moore told SportMail: “Losing Woodsy is a massive blow and I think he’s enjoyed me being here – he’s been treated well, but you can also kick him up the backside.
It’s a big disappointment for everyone connected with the club.Hartlepool boss Ronnie Moore
“He could be a future captain here, he’s that way.
“Not mouthy but he has a presence on the pitch and has a yap if they aren’t going right.”
The club’s head physiotherapist Ian Gallagher said: “After speaking with medical specialists at the hospital and with the club’s consultant it became apparent that Michael needed to have the operation as soon as possible.
“Due to the nature of the injury it was decided that we couldn’t afford to wait.
“He is in the best possible hands now and once the surgery is complete we’ll make sure he gets all the support he needs during his rehabilitation.
“I would like to thank all the staff at North Tees Accident & Emergency who were superb with Michael, as well as all the staff there on Ward 33 who have looked after him so well.”
Woods’ replacement was Featherstone and he impressed alongside Aaron Tshibola in midfield, with the 26-year-old now set for a run in the side.
Featherstone, who recently signed an extended deal, has had to be patient given the form of Woods and Tshibola.
But he will now line up away to Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow night as Pools look to further close the gap at the bottom of Sky Bet League Two.
“Nicky did well when he came on, he’s a good player and is probably a bit frustrated he’s not played,” Moore told SportMail.
“But the standard of Woods and Tish means he’s had to wait.
“It’s been difficult to get a game, he will get a chance now and it’s down to him.
“He’s a solid professional and could have had his bottom lip out and now he’s an opportunity to play.”