Darlington keeper Sam Russell may have reclaimed his place from Bert Bossu but Quakers' No 1 admits he feels sorry for the Frenchman who made several mistakes in his five games.

Bossu provided cover while Russell was sidelined for a month, and the reserve endured a tough time between the sticks.

They began on his debut at Hartlepool United in the Carling Cup and the 6ft 7in Frenchman's luck never changed, culminating in a horrendous mistake which cost a goal at Mansfield ten days ago.

Now Russell - player of the year in his first season with the club - has recovered from the leg injury he suffered at Grimsby Town and has reclaimed his first-team jersey.

"Bert did get a lot of stick so I do have sympathy for him," said the Middesbrough-born keeper.

"It is hard for him because he's a new lad and has to adjust to the club and the area - I felt for him.

"I was lucky enough to have a good game on my debut last season, I was man of the match and it went from there.

"Starting well helps the confidence, a lot of players need that but when you make a mistake you have just got to pick yourself up and put in a good performance in the next game.

"I pray to be his size! A lot of the top sides like to have keeper that size and maybe that's a reason that I'm in the division that I am in, but I have never found my height to be a problem.

"I like to think I have a few other sides to my game, like my kicking, that other keepers don't have."

Russell admitted he was not completely back to full fitness on Saturday but there were no signs he had been out for a month, even showing the confidence to dribble past an Oxford player in the first half.

He is one of the few goalkeepers to be seen in silver-coloured boots and he quipped: "I got a bit lucky because I had a dodgy first touch but then I sent him flying the wrong way - you can't be pulling these boots off if you're only average.

"My leg is not 100 per cent but it is good enough to get me through a game. I'll just have to nurse it, maybe have a Monday off training for a few weeks, which is what the specialist advised me to do, but I feel fine now.

"The specialist said I should maybe leave it for another week but I wanted to play on Saturday.

"If I had come back to early I could have ended up being out even longer but I got through Saturday without much pain, I think I should be back to 100 per cent within a week or two.''

l Jonathan Woodgate insists he is finally ready to put his injury nightmare behind him and help drag Real Madrid out of their current crisis.

Woodgate is poised for a return to league action after almost 18 months on the sidelines recovering from a thigh injury.

''If Luxemburgo and Real Madrid need me, then I am ready,'' Woodgate. ''It is what I am working to do here and I feel very good.''

The ex-Newcastle man could feature in Real's La Liga game with Athletic Bilbao tomorrow.