Leeds United 3
Preston NE 0
You know what the best bit about that result last night was? It was that it was the expected result, the sort of result most of us predicted, give or take a goal or two. That is to say, if Leeds are truly to be promotion contenders this season then, even without the silky skills of Pablo Hernandez, we all knew we had to be finding a way to dispose of a Preston North End side that was struggling with confidence, missing two important suspended players and suffering a number of injuries. Anything less than a win and we’d have to be concluding that, at the very least we had been a tad early in organising out promotion parties.
Preston held up our progress for twenty minutes or so, during which time it looked like this could be as difficult a game as Millwall or Boro, but thereafter Leeds controlled it and, for the most part, dominated. That kept up the record that shows that every result we have achieved this season (excluding that pesky Carabao Cup defeat) has been at the least satisfactory and, mostly, exemplary. We are putting together a Championship campaign that just looks like a promotion campaign, and long may it continue. We are only ever as good as the next game of course and Birmingham on Saturday, fired up no doubt by Monk, will be every bit as tight as the first twenty minutes last night. Monk hasn’t yet found a winning habit (see what I did there?) for the Blues but neither do they lose much so in terms of those expected results don’t put that one down as an easy Leeds win; it will be tricky. But a draw would not be a disaster while another win would be yet more confirmation that, other things being equal, we should be up there challenging all season.
And let’s not forget that last night’s Preston panning was achieved without three of the players that were key at the start of the season – Berardi, Hernandez and Roofe. I’d been particularly worried that without Pablo we wouldn’t find that fluency we saw against the likes of Stoke, Derby and Norwich but last night, the third game of course where Pablo had been missing, Marcelo’s patience once again paid off as this Pablo-less XI showed it does have the wherewithal to deal with the lesser sides in the Championship.
It was also a reminder to us all that we do need to be patient when we have to change things around; Tyler Roberts took some stick at the weekend for his performance at the New Den, only his first start in the central striking role that Kemar Roofe had held down all season. But Marcelo told us after that game that his measure of a striker’s performance was the chances he got, not the chances he scored, and, low and behold, last night a similar performance from Roberts was rewarded this time with two superb finishes. We’ve seen the same with Pontus Jansson too, he has slowly grown again into the brick-heading super-hero we all know and love but it has taken time for him to settle in to the Bielsa machine as it has with Jack Harrison who looks better with each game.
There are mishaps that I currently can’t see how we would get over mind, however long we gave it; Samu Sáiz was imperious again last night (apart from the fact he shoots like my old granny Watkins) and as long as Pablo is missing and Izzy Brown is not available then any injury or suspension to Samu would be catastrophic… although I’m sure Marcelo has something in mind if that ever happens. The way Mateusz Klich sometimes goes forward then maybe he is the one earmarked for the Enganche role; time will reveal all. But let’s not worry about that at the moment, let’s enjoy the way we are playing and let’s see if we can silence the Monk.
Leeds Utd PNE
Possession 62% 38%
Shots 17 5
On Target 5 3
Corners 4 3
Fouls 12 12