I only wrote 5 days ago about Leeds’ inability to dominate teams underlined their unlikely potential of earning promotion. All the good sides in this league (recent results not withstanding, ay Newcastle?) have dominated many of the games they’ve won, whereas Leeds have claimed victory by remaining firm at the back and taking the few chances they get. We’d not dominated anyone fully since Derby and many of our wins have been nervy at points.
The Preston game was a real opportunity for Monk’s side to demonstrate what he had been saying to the press; that the squad would respond. And respond they did. Though the initial 10 minutes while the game settled down were an uncomfortable, nervy affair, as Preston forced Rob Green into a couple of terrific saves. Once we had gained our footing, we saw some of the best football Leeds have played in a long, long while.
Slick passing, tight triangles pulling Preston out of position, incisive wing play and many, many individuals playing well. Roofe coming into the side looked hungry and much of our positivity came from him. Hernandez looked a different player, closing down opposition and seeming fired up. The new-look midfield duo of Vieira and Phillips was ever-present, covering huge amounts of grass and preventing Preston from playing for long periods. Berardi looks more comfortable going forwards (clearly something they’ve been working on in training) and aside from a few early scares, Leeds dominated the game.
The first goal came through an intelligent move; we’ve long noted that Leeds would score more if players could support Wood more, run in advance of him and pull defences apart. We’ve seen recently how sides have sussed out how to defend against Wood as a lone striker, but with an intelligent attacking trio of Pedraza, Roofe and Hernandez swarming around the towering Kiwi, it became a difficult situation for Preston to deal with. The opener came through this situation, as a tidy give-and-go between Wood and Roofe let Kemar through on goal who hit a deflected shot over the keeper and into the goal.
Leeds were frustrated by a seemingly valid Wood goal being ruled offside not long after, with much debate between officials it was disallowed, though much of the crowd (and Leeds dugout) couldn’t quite see why, though with video support for referees these situations would be much easier. On the stroke of half time Leeds had made their dominance count, as Hernandez was played through behind their defence before hitting a deft shot low into the bottom corner at a pace just enough to ensure the tracking defender couldn’t clear it in time.
2-0 leads are difficult ones, because the onus falls on whoever scores first in the second half and true to what we expect from Grayson-managed sides, Preston did elevate their performance in the second period, but struggled to really put Leeds under prolonged pressure and if there’s one thing that Ayling, Bartley, Jansson and Berardi can do (besides get in your head with that chant) it’s defend. The game was put beyond any doubt in injury time as another good pass from midfield found Doukara who waddled with purpose at their goal before breaking convention and beating the keeper at his near post.
I wrote recently that Leeds really don’t beat teams by 3-0, so it’s rather fitting that they proved me wrong by doing exactly that. With a high-profile game against Newcastle on Good Friday it puts Leeds in good stead to roll into that with higher confidence. The key for me is retaining the same midfield, as I don’t see what improvement Bridcutt could make to the performance offered by the two Academy lads.
Co-owner Radrizzani took to Twitter after the game to publish a cryptic message, seemingly aimed at those of us venting frustration about the lack of contract for Monk and a shortage of forward-planning coming from the club.
— Andrea Radrizzani (@andrearadri) April 8, 2017
Is it in hand? Or are we going to be subject to another Summer of shuffling instability. Who knows? Well, Andrea seemingly does, though he did suggest in January that securing Monk to a proper contract was high on his agenda. Cynics would suggest Cellino is tempering his ability to do things, but there’s little evidence to support such a claim, willing as we are to believe it.
All we know is Leeds won 3-0, Agent Grayson did his job, Jermaine Beckford still loves Leeds and we’re agonisingly close to securing a playoff spot. But with Fulham chomping at the bit to push their way in, someone has to fall out. Our sole objective now is to ensure that side isn’t us.