By Wayne Veysey

5th Dec, 2016 | 9:08pm

Leeds can clinch automatic promotion if they sign this available PL striker next month

By Editor Wayne Veysey

Suddenly, Leeds fans are starting to dream. Not just of a place in the play-offs, but of something far greater. Automatic promotion.

Such an ambition would have appeared ludicrous even a month ago, when the team’s transformation under Garry Monk was starting to take shape.

But on the back of five wins in six matches that has catapulted the side to fourth in the table it suddenly appears realistic, if not yet feasible.

On a budget dwarfed by those of the Championship big spenders, Monk has recruited wisely since being thrust into the Elland Road dugout.

Luke Ayling and Eunan O’Kane were excellent signings, Liam Bridcutt, should prove to be the same, and the manager made shrewd use of the loan market by recruiting Pontus Jansson, Pablo Hernandez, Hadi Sacko and Kyle Bartley.

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Leeds have a battle-hardened group of fighters who are tough to play against and even tougher to beat. They are also growing increasingly accustomed to the playing style put in place by Monk and his staff.

But the team lacks firepower, a game-changing presence who is clinical in the box and eats, breathes and sleeps goal scoring opportunities.

That player is not Chris Wood, a fine battering ram of a striker who is well suited to the physical rigours of the Championship and has delivered the goods this season with 13 goals, including 10 in the league.

Wood cannot carry the goalscoring burden alone and a proven striker must be recruited in the January transfer window to help him out.

One player who is a goal machine in the lower leagues and will be available next month is Jordan Rhodes, who was once again left out of the Middlesbrough squad that faced Hull in the Premier League on Monday night.

The 26-year-old’s statistics are persuasive, borne out of his formidable record in the Championship and in League One with former clubs Blackburn and Huddersfield.

Rhodes struck 84 times in 169 appearances for Blackburn and was even more prolific at Huddersfield, where his 86 goals came in just 147 matches.

There is talk of a £9million fee needed to prise Rhodes from the Riverside, the type of transfer outlay Leeds would not have sniffed at in their Premier League days.

Times are harder under the frugal Massimo Cellino, who regards a £3million buy as an exorbitant one.

Nevertheless, Leeds should dig deep and centre their transfer market guns on blasting their rivals out of the water in what will likely be a tasty battle to land Rhodes.

Monk needs another to goalscorer to keep his team firing, and the Scotland international perfectly fits the bill. His build-up play might be no great shakes and he lacks the pace to trouble top flight defences.

But his movement and awareness is excellent, and he knows how to locate the back of the next. He is a lower league gem.

Leeds could clinch automatic promotion if they were to land Rhodes next month.

In other Leeds news, the club are closing in on a £3.6million January signing.