Leeds returned to winning ways again on Saturday at Elland Road, as the springtime sun shone on a 3-0 victory over Preston North End.
After back-to-back defeats, Garry Monk will have been thrilled with a performance that harked back to the period around Christmas when the side were really flying.
It was to be an unhappy return for former manager Simon Grayson, as another big crowd of 31,000 saw Leeds get their promotion bid back on track. Preston really should have scored first early on, when an unmarked Tom Barkhuizen saw his header tipped over the bar by veteran Leeds shot stopper, Rob Green. On the 13th minute Barkhuizen was in one-on-one but dragged his shot wide. This season has been a career renaissance for the former England goalkeeper, and he can think himself unlucky that he wasn’t named in the EFL Team of the Year. Pontus Jansson and Chris Wood were named, however.
Preston were punished for their profligacy in front of goal when on 18 minutes, Kemar Roofe played a deft one-two with Chris Wood, before his shot took a deflection and flew over the head of Preston goalkeeper, Chris Maxwell. Roofe joined Leeds for £3,000,000 in the summer from Oxford, and has blown hot and cold this season. The goal was an example of the obvious quality that he can bring to a team at this level. Fans have grumbled that Monk has been too reliant on Chris Wood up front on his own, but Roofe will be hoping that his performance today will lead to more starts as the play-offs get nearer.
Pablo Hernandez made it two-nil on the stroke of halftime, before a late Souleymane Doukara strike made it three, late in the second half. The atmosphere at Elland Road was rocking, but manager Garry Monk has stressed caution, and for fans not to get ahead of themselves:
“It was really important to respond and we were determined to after back-to-back defeats away from home and that was the key,” said Monk.
“We spoke to the group this week after Tuesday’s game and just felt what is important is that when this group is focused on showing what they’re capable of, that’s when they deliver their best performances.
“In the games earlier in the week, there was a lot of talk going on about league positions and points and this would mean this and this would mean that and I get it, I understand.
“We’re fully aware of where we are in the league, but the key is focusing and always showing what they’re capable of.”
With the play-offs now almost rubber stamped, thoughts will start to turn to the play-offs. Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley look to be back to their imperious selves, and Chris Wood is the striker that no defence in the league will want to come up against. They will travel to Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United on Friday night hoping to make a serious statement.