Chris Wood predicted better times ahead for him and Leeds United after his brace in a 3-2 win against Reading killed off the threat of relegation.
The striker reached double figures for the season with two second-half goals at Elland Road on Saturday, setting himself up for a strong finish to a campaign which he admitted was “not the season I’ve been after.”
Leeds committed around £3m to signing Wood from Leicester City last summer, their biggest transfer of the close season, but the forward’s first year at Elland Road has been disrupted by injury and he was short of the 10-goal mark until his finish in the 69th minute on Saturday gave United a 2-1 lead.
Wood struck again on 85 minutes, shortly after Reading had equalised, to hand United victory and ensure mathematical safety in the Championship with four games to go.
Leeds have failed to seriously challenge for promotion this season and off-field issues were prevalent again last week, culminating in a group of several hundred supporters marching from the city centre to Elland Road on Saturday in protest against owner Massimo Cellino.
But Wood said he believed Leeds were “building in the right direction” and wants the club to use the final three weeks of the season to put “smiles back on faces.”
“The fans have seen some amazing times here and they want to see the club back to that standard,” Wood said.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work and it’s not going to happen overnight but I feel it’s changing in a good direction here.
“There were a few problems last season which have drastically changed this season. It’s not perfect by any means but I can see behind the scenes that it’s changing for the best and that gives me confidence.
“We’ve got a great squad and a great team. We can be top six (next season), I 100 per cent believe that. We’ve got an average age of 23, 24 with some experience thrown in. I definitely believe we can be up there.
“Hopefully we can have a good end to the season and put some smiles back on faces – first of all our faces but also the fans. We want to be creating a show and winning games. That’s what it’s all about.”
Wood has claimed three goals in his last four appearances and his brace against Reading was a riposte to criticism aimed at him after two bad misses in a 1-0 defeat at Burnley seven days earlier.
The New Zealand international was put through an intense fitness programme while he made his recovery from niggling hamstring problems after Christmas and he said the additional work had seen him return in “much better shape.”
“It’s hard being injured and it’s been a stop-start season,” Wood said. “I missed about 10 weeks of the season and it’s taken me a couple of games to get up to speed.
“When I was injured I sat down with the physio and the fitness people and they said they were going to change a few things. I have to give credit to them because I’m in much better shape and I feel much better for it. I want to keep that up.
“I’m always confident I can score goals. It’s just not been the season I’ve been after. That’s not just with me but with everybody. There’s been a lot of injuries in the squad. We haven’t performed like we would have wanted to but we’re building in the right direction.”