MONK’S MEN GET BACK ON TRACK WITH EASY OUTING
Poor visitors put to the sword
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.”
ROOFE JUSTICE: Leeds midfielder Kemar Roofe, right, gets a hug from Pontus Jansson after scoring the opening goal