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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Leeds United v Preston North End. 8th April 2017.

Glorious Spring sunshine bathed Elland Road as we parked the car and headed for the Theatre of Hope. After back to back defeats nerves were a jangling amongst the 32,000 disciples heading into the stadium. Have the wheels come off the Garry Monk bandwagon? Have teams "found Leeds out"? Will Agent Grayson again deliver three points to the Leeds promotion push? All questions eagerly debated amongst the Leeds faithful as we waited for kick off. Team selection was interesting. Roofe returned to the starting line up as Vieira and Phillips were in the midfield engine room. Barrow dropped to the bench. Beckford was on the bench for Preston.

The stadium was picture perfect with the stands packed and the bright sunshine gleaming on the lush green pitch. Could Leeds deliver though in this vital end of season game? Anybody of a nervous disposition wasn't helped when Preston got round the back of the Leeds defence in the 3rd minute only to see Barkhuizen's header tipped over the bar by Green. This generated a fair few nervy squeaks from bums around the ground. Leeds were looking bright though. Gone was the disjointed approach work from Brentford. Pablo seemed to have rediscovered his wand, Roofe was enjoying the freedom of a more attacking role and Pedraza looked comfortable on the ball and with Vieira and Phillips prompting from midfield we started to pressurise the vulnerable Preston back line with ex Leeds player Huntington at the centre of their defence.

The volume of the crowd steadily increased as the home fans urged their team on. No need for a name check in the programme for the Leeds fans as Reading did for their's last week. The Elland Road faithful were on message from the first minute as usual. On 17 minutes Roofe's industrious early work paid off handsomely. He eagerly won the ball in midfield and played a sublime one two with Wood and surged into the Preston box before lifting the ball over the Preston keeper into the empty net. Get innnnnnnn! Suddenly the worries and nerves were consigned to the dustbin. Leeds were 1.0 up and gunning for more.

The game was still tight with chances at each end. McGeady missed a golden chance after breaching the Leeds back line as Preston lived up to the stereotypical Grayson team, easy on the eye going forward but delicate at the back. Leeds were changing through the gears going forward though. Roofe should have doubled his tally after good work by Pedraza down the left. The redoubtable Luke Ayling clattered a shot into the box but nobody could steer it in. Hernandez tried to beat 97 men in a mazy dribble into the box before having his shot blocked. Why doesn't he just shoot after leaving the first three for dead? Wood had the ball in the net after another sweet Leeds move but the linesman flagged him for offside. Then just in the dying embers of the first half we were treated to an exquisite 2nd goal. Wood dropped a header to the irresistible Roofe who volleyed a perfect ball for Hernandez scampering through the middle. The diminutive Spaniard stretched out his leg to steer the ball past the oncoming goalie and into the empty net. 2.0 and Elland Road erupted. The Play Offs were now well and truly on the agenda especially with Huddersfield and Reading losing. Reading had conceded 5 in the first half? Quick somebody send me a photo of Jaap Stam's face. It would be delicious!

So the urinal philosophers were happy as Larry for a change. All smiles and no moans. Lots of praise for Roofe, Hernandez and Ayling and lots of incredulity at the Reading score. I returned to my seat looking forward to cementing the win over the outsiders for a play off place. Next goal would be crucial though. If they get one back..................

Preston started the 2nd half on the front foot and it took a good ten minutes for Leeds to wake up to the task in hand. But when they did they sent a welcome surge of confidence through the veins of their battle hardened fans. Bartley won a header from a corner but his header was fumbled off the line only for Wood to nearly break the crossbar in two with a ferocious shot. Minutes later Bartley had another header cleared off the line as Leeds turned the screw. Next up it was Hernandez who was released after a lovely passage of play but his powerful shot cannoned away for a corner. Leeds were purring. How could this be the same team that drove us nuts at Brentford and Reading? This is certainly a bonkers division.

Leeds continued to look for the 3rd goal. Vieira hit a stinging shot from 20 yards that the goalie could only parry but there was no player following up. Jermaine Beckford came onto the field to a tremendous reception bizarrely better than he ever got when he was wearing a Leeds shirt? He managed a couple of decent clearances for a Leeds goal kick during his time on the pitch. He's still all Leeds isn't he and he loves it. Not sure Mr Grayson was that pleased though? Doukara came on for Wood as Leeds looked to close the game out.

Alex Baptiste finally snapped after being teased once too often by Hernandez as he kicked him in the back. He started heading for the dressing room before the ref produced his red card. Taylor replaced Hernandez for the final few minutes. Doukara sealed the victory in the final minute when he finished well after more sloppy defending by Preston. Final score 3.0 Leeds. In the end a comfortable win for Leeds with outstanding performances from Green, Roofe, Hernandez helped by the young impressive midfield pairing of Vieira and Phillips. Yet again Luke Ayling was immense at right back. What a bargain he's turned out to be. A much needed impressive performance from Leeds which should just about see us into the play offs.

Newcastle up next on Good Friday night in front of a sell out St James Park. That should be a tasty game especially after the majority of fans will have been quenching their thirst all day before the game? If we can keep Mr Shelvey and Gayle quiet we should have a chance but that's easier said than done. One thing for sure it will be a cracking game in a crackling atmosphere.

Can't wait.


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