By Alex Stevens
Liam Cooper has described the criticism heaped upon Chris Wood in the opening weeks of the new season as “very harsh”.
Centre-back Cooper defended Wood’s slow start to the campaign after the striker’s stunning overhead kick gave Leeds their first point of the season.
Leeds managed to give lift-off to their Championship campaign after the New Zealand captain Wood scored a last-minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Fulham on Tuesday night.
Leeds’ top scorer last season has struggled for form in the opening stages of the season, drawing criticism from the crowd and leading to sarcastic jeers when Garry Monk substituted him during last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Birmingham City.
The former Leicester player endured another difficult evening against Fulham but came good at the death through his unorthodox finish three minutes into injury-time.
“It was a great finish from Woody at the end,” Cooper told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “He deserved that. He’s an honest player and what’s been happening to him has been very harsh. But we’re in the limelight and we’re there to be shot at.
“Chris will tell you himself that he’s disappointed to have missed chances but we know he has that sort of finish in the bag. He does it every day in training.
“The goal was very important. He’s come in for a bit of stick but fair play to him. “We see him bang goals in every day – overhead kicks and good finishes. We know what he’s capable of doing.
“As long as he’s getting chances he won’t be bothered because he knows he’ll stick them in. The goals will come.”
Leeds climbed out of the relegation places with the point, and simultaneously denied Fulham from moving to the top of the league after they took the lead in the 77th minute through ex-Elland Road midfielder Tom Cairney.
Cooper was restored to the starting line-up following his return to fitness in place of captain Sol Bamba.
The Ivorian looked shaky in the 2-1 loss to Birmingham and Monk elected to field a more steady option in centre-back Cooper.
Wood was Leeds top scorer last season, and this goal has pushed him to the top of the club’s embryonic 2016-17 goalscoring charts once again, adding to his penalty against League One side Fleetwood.
In other Leeds team news, Monk has revealed how new signing Liam Bridcutt can improve the club’s youngsters.