Preston 1 Leeds United 4
It just keeps getting better! I was convinced this would be a difficult game against a Preston side in useful form but it is clear that I both overestimated the level at which Preston are operating and underestimated our own talents.
A Leeds side that began the game without the services of assumed first XI stars Hernandez, Wood, O’Kane and Charlie Taylor, demolished Simon Grayson’s Preston outfit in a totally professional display that will have even the most pessimistic Leeds fans checking their diaries for May. It should all be prefaced by stating that the home side does look to have a typically porous Grayson type defence that, should it continue to play like this, will have the Deepdale faithful biting down to their knuckles before long, but it was still down to Leeds to expose them and they did.
A simple right-wing free kick met by the towering head of Pontus Jansson would have scored the opener anyway had Kemar Roofe not nipped in to make sure and then a gliding silky run from the oft maligned Hadi Sacko was finished with a sublime Roofe back heel one-two and a rasping Sacko shot to give Leeds an early 2 – 0 lead. This Leeds side is not perfect yet mind, not Chelsea perfect anyway and Garry Monk was right to be annoyed by the ease with which Preston undid our own defence to pull a goal back, still within the opening half-hour. Leeds teams of the past might have panicked at that point but this Monk inspired version doesn’t do that and soon Doukara was skipping into the Preston area to fire a shot just inside the near post to restore the 2 goal lead.
It was probably inevitable that Grayson’s troops would be better after a stern talking to at half time and it was also a reminder that this young Leeds side still has much to improve upon to reach that Chelsea type perfection. Too often in the second half passes went astray or players would run down cul-de-sacs and we also did that annoying thing where we hoof the ball aimlessly out of defence knowing that no one was at the other end to fight for the clearance. I’m sure it was all noted by Monk and that they will get better each time we see them. We ought to mention a fine save pulled off by Rob Green too, often maligned for sloppy work under a high ball but once again showing why he’s there between our posts and why Monk has stuck by him.
Leeds had the opportunity to send on Hernandez and Wood to get valuable recuperation time too and they showed their class with a fine fourth goal that sealed the game even if the earlier misdemeanour from Jermaine Beckford perhaps hadn’t fully closed the door despite Preston going down to ten men.
It’s time to get excited folks! This side of ours will improve, as it has been doing all season but even at today’s level we now have some solid players. Berardi seamlessly came in to maintain one of the best back fours in the Championship while Kemar Roofe is now showing why so much was expected of him. The sight of Pablo Hernandez back on a Leeds United team sheet will have Championship coaches shifting uncomfortably too. No, we aren’t Chelsea…. but we getting closer with every outing and even I am starting to believe that actually, we are better than most sides in this division!
Preston NE Leeds Utd
Possession 44% 56%
Shots 10 11
On Target 4 6
Corners 2 4
Fouls 14 15