Preston North End (Hume) 1 – 2 Leeds United (Kilkenny, Paynter)

Goals from Neil Kilkenny and Billy Paynter gave Leeds United their first Tuesday night league victory of the season as they won 2-1 at Deepdale.

The vital three points puts Leeds United within one win of the automatic promotion spots as everyone in the top six bar newly promoted Leeds and Norwich City dropped points.

The contrast from the 4-6 freak result at Elland Road earlier this season couldn’t have been greater. Since then, Darren Ferguson has been relieved of his duties at Deepdale and replaced by Phil Brown, and the former Hull City manager’s style was clear to see in Preston’s approach. Gone is the all-out-attack and shambolic defending we saw from Preston some months back, and in it’s place comes the scrappy, tightly contested football that helped make Brown a household name (in Hull at least).

The opening exchanges were quick and reciprocal as both teams had opportunities to open the scoring. Preston were frustrated by the brilliant Kasper Schmeichel, who tipped an absolute screamer from Treacy onto the bar, whilst Leeds’ chances lacked accuracy and caused Schmeichel’s opposite number few problems.

In a game where accuracy and shooting ability could make all the difference, the last person you want hitting shots from long range is Neil Kilkenny. But strike one he did, and the result was one for the Australian’s scrapbook. A rare goal and an absolute stunner to boot put Leeds United in the lead, much to the delight of the 5,000 traveling fans – many of whom (myself included) had spent the drive to Deepdale questioning his contribution to our midfield.

It’s all so typical of players that come under scrutiny for them to miraculously start performing. Max Gradel’s greed, stupidity and showboating gave way to one of the most gifted talents in our team. Bradley Johnson’s belief that he was Peter Lorimer finally gave way to a defensive minded player who gets stuck in and helps the team defensively, rather than a player who blasts shots from 60 yards and wastes chances. I sincerely doubt Kilkenny can undergo a similar transformation and instantly learn how to defend, attack and tackle, but stranger things have happened. A trained chimp was twice elected President of the United States after all.

Preston’s confidence took a hit and Leeds began to dominate as Billy Paynter and Jonny Howson both went close before the break.

North End returned with the fighting spirit that had made the game such an evenly contested one in the first half and were denied an equaliser less than ten minutes in by the offside flag. A lucky escape for Leeds, but one that seemed to spark them back into life.

For a Leeds United side that seem to pride themselves on doing things the hard way, a second goal seemed unfeasible. Unlikelier still, was that Billy Paynter would get it, considering the sheer amount of bad luck he’s had since joining Leeds United. Picking up the ball at the edge of the area, Billy had only one thing in mind as the apparent ‘lack of confidence’ he’s been suffering dissipated, allowing him to finish beautifully and extend Leeds’ lead.

The away end exploded with volume as a relieved Billy Paynter finally got to celebrate in front of the Leeds United fans who had been urging him on throughout the game.

Unsatisfied with a comfortable, easy(ish) night’s work, Leeds United quickly reverted to type. Preston pulled one back with a long range strike from Hume, before the Leeds fans topped up on blood pressure tablets and the squad set about making things as uncomfortable as humanly possible.

From the moment Preston scored, there was a sense Leeds United were going to blow it (again) and the thirty odd minutes that followed seemed to take an eternity as Preston threw everything at Leeds’ goal to try and rescue a point (or beat us 6-2 as their fans amusing claimed they would).

Billy Paynter was denied his second of the night as the post thwarted his final attempt, before Luciano Becchio came on as his replacement. Barry Bannan and Richard Naylor followed, as Simon Grayson showed he doesn’t just do attacking substitutions, but also knows how to sure up a defence when needed – not often we’ve seen that this season.

The uncomfortable viewing finally came to an end after a few headed clearances from Andy O’Brien and Richard Naylor, an Argentinian striker showing the centre-backs how it’s done, Max Gradel proving once and for all that he has absolutely no idea how to run the clock down and four excruciating minutes of stoppage time.

Onwards and upwards?

A tricky one to sum up really, as Preston aren’t the team many people would expect given their current league position. Phil Brown really has them battling hard, and they look an awful lot better than a handful of teams I’ve seen this season (Scunthorpe and Doncaster being two recent examples, and Preston the first time around – strange, I know – being another). In many ways, this was the kind of game we seemed to be able to grind out last season as we stuttered our way into the Championship.

Overall, an excellent result regardless of how difficult it was to witness at times. The top six continues to tighten as our rivals drop points, meaning we now sit an almost unbelievable three points away from an automatic Premier League spot. You almost feel like whispering it, just in case someone overhears us and docks us 15 points…

Evident by the songs of “we’re going up, you’re going down” (bit harsh I felt given our recent troubles, but nevertheless inevitable on Preston’s part) and “na na na… Leeds are going up…” the last two games have got Leeds United fans truly believing the previously unthinkable is once again possible. It’s a funny old game, but I for one, wouldn’t like to call who will finish second.

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream;
not only plan, but also believe.” (Anatole France)

  • badras

    a good win for leeds last night ,there will of been lots of nerves shaking last night as we looked for a tuesday night win. time to kick on now.prem league here we come.
    im gonna stick with my prediction for promotion and you might think im crazy but i said from the start that leeds ,norwich and Leicester would get promoted this season . Qpr are going to drop to 3rd and forest are going to swich with leicester.

  • Mightywhite83

    Went to the game last night and was sat in the home end how I would of loved to have been sat in the opposite end but must say I make no wonder the players have no confidence as all the pne fans did was jump straight on there backs at the slightest mistake( I thought Leeds fans were bad lol) and some of the idiotic bile coming out of there mouths was quite frankly disgusting ie calling kasper a bacon sucking Danish twat said everything about there support!

    Was pleased with how Leeds played thought howson was superb but sorry Billy paynter is useless apart from his goal he was dreadful and andy o brien also seems to be putting the back four under pressure.

  • derbyshirewhite

    Although PNE may have changed since we first played them, our disorganised defending hasn’t got any better. I thought this was one of our worst displays with McCartney and Bromby looking like they’d met for the first time in the car park before the match. On a more positive note Billy P did grow into the game and showed some threat in the second half. The recruitment of yet another pint sized midfielder isn’t going to solve our problems in defence but if it motivates Killa to score the odd goal it’s possibly a shrewd move.

  • I’m pretty sure we will make the play offs but the second spot is open. I wouldnt put money on second though.

  • henryv

    Superb report again TSS!!
    I really appreciate the effort and professionalism in your writing!!
    Could have been a banana skin for us, but we survived and triumphed.
    Barry Bannan will lift the midfield, and once we get that big dominant defender (or two), we will be really close.
    Momentum is everything in the run in, and there will be many changes before it ends!
    Can we stand it??

    Yes!!

  • pabs1983

    I was limited lst night to listening to Tom Khirwin and Eddie Gray, and after the match, made the point, that whilst we realise where we need to improve (defence/DM) the quality we need is unlikely to be available. The only players that seem to be available are impact players (like bannan), young players that can maybe produce a bit of magic.

    Our only other option is to hope someone is massively out of favour, but then you need to question why, and if that will have a negative effect on the rest of the squad.

  • jailhouse john

    We do not have the most taxing run in when compared to our rivals who all seem to be stuttering so it is not impossible that we may well yet mount a serious challenge for automatic propmotion. Our hardest game on paper is the last one at Loftus Road but I suspect that final positions will be sorted out before then.
    Bannans arrival is a big plus and I think he will be a big player for us.

    Key games for us are the 5 home games left – 13 points are a must and the Burnley game is looming large as being crucial.

  • Shermanator

    A big thank you to Sian Massey who did a great job and flagged the offside goal, well done love!

  • Dje

    Great result again in way of three points – others dropping points too. Glad to see that we can still actually defend for half an hour and not concede when we need to – it may prove vital in the next ten games!!

    Got to say that, tempting fate and all, we really have to be aiming for automatic promotion now – as it is in grasp and no longer a dream or wishful thinking.

    I reckon eight wins from the last ten games would see us home (so common Grayson stick with the attacking talk and go for the three points each time and less of the ‘going on a run of being undefeated’ rhetoric – as that only ends in lots of draws (ie. January and February)). Sure, eight wins from ten games sounds slightly pipe-dreaming, but if you aim for three points next at home to Ipswich (hopefully with Bullard still injured) and then three points away after that at Sheffield United, you are looking at six wins in the last eight games. Hard, but do-able.

    I’d love to see us go into our last game being only two points behind QPR, knowing that a win would see us make that automatic spot – our fate in our own hands. Seriously can’t wait!

  • Dje

    With Bradley Johnson now on nine yellow cards – I presume another would leave him with a two match ban?!

    Does that looming prospect carry to the end of the season and the playoffs?

  • Old Billy White

    Pleased for Paynter that he has got a goal at last, it must have been getting to him. Good away 3 points on a night when other results went our way.
    I can’t quite believe we are in this position, consolidation in this league would have been a good acheivement in my opinion. I have enjoyed most games, with goals galore at both ends we are certainly not boring to watch.
    However I read and hear lots of negatives about this season, (and it’s going really well) what will it be like if next season we are struggling in the Premiership bottom 6?

  • DAVE

    Cardiff have the easiest run in of all the top teams, Burnley don’t stand a chance with their run in, by the time they play Leeds they will be planning their summer holidays, I still think its the plays offs and the inevitable disappointment then championship football again next year, but really still better than we expected at the start of the year, unless Cardiff bottle it, then……

  • Irving08

    Can’t agree that we don’t have taxing run-in. We are due to play at home some teams who can score goals and are just outside top 6 – Reading, Watford, Burnley – and one team that can defend,
    Notts Forest. Away we have QPR and Milwall neither of which will be easy ! So I see us achieving no more than the play-offs where the priority, to my mind, has to be avoiding a meeting with Cardiff, who may miss out on automatic promotion in favour of Norwich who, while no better than us, unfortunately have a few more points. A Leeds-Norwich play-off at Wembley would be a corker, if Cardiff do pip them. QPR will go up, in my view.

  • Tim Campbell

    Said it before and I’ll say it again, that the Championship is far more exciting and enthralling than the Premiership. Having said that I firmly believe that it is the Premiership we will be in next season. We are timing our run superbly, confidence is high in the camp, and its the others in the top six who are experiencing the jitters. Its definitely ours for the taking..come on lads play your hearts out these last 10 games!!

  • Peking Man

    The run-in is very hard to call but it looks like our hitting form is perfectly timed, and should allow us to get enough points to get us CLOSE to the finish line. However I think we’ll still be headed into Burnley & QPR games needing the points as others blow hot & cold.
    2 weeks ago we were all scared about the unstoppable Forest & Leics, now they’ve gone off the pace; Cardiff too. Burnley will definitely be in the mix, and Reading & Hull will take enough points off contenders to either raise themselves into contention for P/O’s or kill others chances.
    Its going to be a roller-coaster ride………..!
    With Leeds it always is!

  • Mike

    What Jed said, and Tim. :-)

  • Idlewhite

    Can’t see Burnley sustaining their form with the April they have, Forest, Leicester & us away, Swansea at home and their last game after us is Cardiff at home. Very tricky run-in indeed. Also by the time we play watford, reading, millwall and the likes I think they won’t be playing for anything other than pride. It’s there for the taking in my eyes, bit of consistency needed and convert the draws into wins. Don’t think the points total needed will be as high as other seasons in that a lot of the top ten still havin to play one another. Been a fantastic season so far, can’t wait for the run in!

  • Joey

    The atmosphere was brilliant, and it was a proper scrapy game where Leeds had to dig out a result and they did well, I don’t know what one of the earlier lads is on about Paynter played well i thought, early on he wasnt too godd but he kept graftin away n made good opportunities for himself, gradel, howson, and lijah stood out aswell. nervy after they scored usually we’d have draw that game but turned a corner have we??
    “he dives to the left, he dives to the right, kasper schmeichel, makes his dad look shite” ;)