Defender Scott Wootton claimed a top-10 finish at the end of a turbulent season would be a “real positive” for Leeds United after a gritty goalless draw with Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Wootton said United’s team had learned to cope with the pressure of playing for the club and were developing a confident mindset on the back of an extended run of good form in the second half of the season.
A tight contest with Forest – a side with a slim chance of making the Championship play-offs – failed to produce a winning goal but Wootton declared himself happy with a solid performance in front of Elland Road’s biggest home crowd of the term.
Leeds are 13th in the league ahead of back-to-back games against struggling Fulham and Blackpool this week, six points back from 10th-placed Blackburn Rovers who won away at Charlton Athletic on Saturday. Neil Redfearn’s squad are out of contention for promotion but right-back Wootton insisted a move into the top 10 in the final nine games of the season was a meaningful target after a campaign in which the club were threatened with relegation.
The former Liverpool and Manchester United player was one of a number of peripheral figures in United’s squad who Redfearn brought in from the cold at the turn of the year, leading to a dramatic turnaround in results.
Wootton began 2015 on loan at Rotherham United and was briefly in line for a permanent move to the New York Stadium before returning to Elland Road.
“The likes of myself, Steve Morison, Billy Sharp and Luke Murphy were nowhere near the picture and the club looked like we were in a real relegation dogfight,” Wootton said.
“But since the turn of the year we’ve all come back into the mix and we’ve all helped. Sol (Bamba) has been a big player for us and Charlie Taylor’s playing well on the left. It’s been really pleasing for us all to pull together.
“We know what this league’s about and I think that’s showing. It’s no fluke with the results and the form.
“There’s a pressure you should expect to have when you’re playing for Leeds United. You should go into games expecting to win and for the first time in a while we’ve got that feeling. We don’t seem to be bothered by it. We know exactly what we’re doing. We’re tough and resilient.
“We’d rather have it that way than be going to places and people thinking we’re going to get beaten, which was probably the case two or three months ago. We’ve turned it round and a top-10 finish would be a real positive way to end the season.”
Saturday’s game produced few chances, with Forest keeper Karl Darlow pulling off good saves in either half from Taylor and Mirco Antenucci and United’s Marco Silvestri denying Ben Osborn and Chris Burke.
Wootton said: “I think a draw was about fair.
“We probably edged it in the first half in terms of chances and territory. They had a really good spell in the second half and we were against the ropes for a while.
“They had pressure on us but we were resilient and solid and it was pleasing to come away with a clean sheet.”