Poor vis­i­tors put to the sword

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Richard Laverty

LEEDS United main­tained their five-point gap on Ful­ham with a com­fort­able win that put a se­ri­ous dent in Pre­ston North End’s slim hopes of a play-off spot.

Goals be­fore the break from Ke­mar Roofe and Pablo Her­nan­dez put the home side in con­trol, and Souley­mane Doukara’s stop­page­time strike added the cherry to the cake.

The re­sult also ended Pre­ston’s run of five games un­de­feated as Simon Grayson’s side wasted sev­eral good chances in front of goal and were made to pay for it.

With Brighton and New­cas­tle in­creas­ingly out of reach, Leeds man­ager Garry Monk was de­lighted his side bounced back from two straight de­feats.

“It was re­ally im­por­tant to re­spond, we were de­ter­mined to re­spond,” said Monk.

“The key to this group is al­ways show­ing what they’re ca­pa­ble of and here we were fully fo­cused on do­ing that.

“The first ten min­utes they were dan­ger­ous but once we got through that we cre­ated nu­mer­ous chances and looked com­fort­able. We re­mained calm and the play­ers showed what they could do and that meant we got the three points we de­served.”

In spite of the dom­i­nant score­line, it was Pre­ston who had the

bet­ter of the open­ing ex­changes, Tom Barkhuizen test­ing Leeds goal­keeper Rob Green with a header in­side 90 sec­onds be­fore slid­ing a one-on-one wide of the far post.

But Leeds soon turned the ta­bles and made their pres­sure count when Roofe and Her­nan­dez ex­changed passes be­fore the for­mer beat Chris Maxwell thanks to some help from the un­for­tu­nate Greg Cun­ning­ham.

Her­nan­dez then scored at a cru­cial time as the game moved into first-half stop­page time, rolling the ball be­yond Maxwell who had come far out of his goal to try to stop the at­tack.

De­spite more op­por­tu­ni­ties af­ter the break, which in­cluded Barkhuizen strik­ing the bar from point-blank range, Grayson was dis­ap­pointed with his team’s in­abil­ity to de­fend.

“We played some de­cent stuff but mis­takes at bad times cost us across the whole 90 min­utes,” said the North End man­ager.

“We weren’t strong enough men­tally and we just didn’t de­fend well enough over the course of the game, which is dis­ap­point­ing for us. You’re look­ing at the three goals and from our point of view three ex­pe­ri­enced de­fend­ers have made er­rors on each goal which has cost us.”

At 2-0 down Pre­ston were gifted a way back into the game. Ai­den McGeady’s ef­fort had been spilled by Green and it looked cer­tain that Barkhuizen would tuck home the re­bound. But it wasn’t to be the striker’s day and he was de­nied a goal for the third time in the game as Green some­how di­rected his ef­fort onto the bar.

Grayson added: “We’ve cre­ated chances early on to take the lead and we’ve had a few across the six-yard box, but if you don’t do the ba­sics at one end you’re not go­ing to win the game any­way.”

Monk’s side had hit the cross­bar them­selves just mo­ments be­fore, Chris Wood swiv­el­ling on the spot from a cor­ner but smash­ing his own ef­fort against the wood­work.

The day got worse for the vis­i­tors when Alex Bap­tiste was shown a straight red for an off-the­ball in­ci­dent with Her­nan­dez as the clock ticked to­wards full-time. With Pre­ston down to ten men and more and more stretched, sub­sti­tute Doukara ran through on the right-hand side and slot­ted a late ef­fort passed the help­less Maxwell.

Monk added: “We ex­pressed our­selves both of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively.

“There’s been a lot of noise go­ing on about where we are but we de­liv­ered a re­ally good per­for­mance.

“Where this group has come from to where it is now, that speaks vol­umes for our progress.”

PIC­TURES: Cam­era Sports

ROOFE JUS­TICE: Leeds mid­fielder Ke­mar Roofe, right, gets a hug from Pon­tus Jans­son af­ter scor­ing the open­ing goal

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