CHRIS WOOD and Luke Ayling will be back in Leeds United’s squad for Saturday after returning to training ahead of the club’s clash with Queens Park Rangers.
Top-scorer Wood has been given the go-ahead to rejoin United’s first team after complaining of a minor calf strain following last week’s win over Birmingham City, an injury which forced him to sit out of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Fulham.
Ayling was also absent from Leeds’ trip to Craven Cottage after being given time off to be present at the birth of his daughter.
Wood, who has 25 goals to his name, had missed only one previous league game - a 1-0 win over Brentford before Christmas - and Ayling’s absence was his first in a Championship fixture since his transfer from Bristol City in August.
Leeds rode the loss of two key players to come within seconds of a priceless victory at Fulham, eventually denied a 1-0 win by a 96th-minute equaliser from Tom Cairney.
Wood’s prolific strike rate has helped to carry United towards a top-six finish, the only member of Monk’s squad who is into double figures this season, but Monk said: “There are always situations where you have to move players around or manipulate the squad. Whenever we’ve done that we’ve been able to perform and get results.
“I always refer back to the fact that I trust my group. We’ve faced this situation in various positions and the players have taken it in their stride. (Wood and Ayling) are back in training and in contention.”
Ayling’s ever-present record in league games since his move to Elland Road had been threatened before the trip to Fulham by a two-match ban for a 10th booking of the season.
The right-back and centre-back Kyle Bartley are both on nine, one yellow card away from a mandatory suspension, but the Football Association’s cut-off point for that punishment comes after tomorrow’s clash with QPR.
Monk insisted that the timing of the FA’s amnesty would not influence his team selection or his willingness to field either defender this weekend with Leeds attempting to maintain an eight-point lead over the teams below the Championship’s play-off places.
I always refer back to the fact that I trust my group. We’ve faced this situation in various positions and the players have taken it in their stride.Leeds United manager, Garry Monk
United have 10 fixtures remaining, including a home meeting with second-placed Brighton next weekend, but Monk said: “We’re here to win games. We’re here to get points and we’re here to perform.
“My job is to select the team I think’s best to win this game. The next game’s always the most important. It’s not about what happens in four weeks or five weeks, it’s about what happens right now. We’ll focus on this game like that.”