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SkyBet League One
Saturday, 22nd September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Leeds United v Preston - Whites to wreak revenge on porous North End?
Tuesday, 18th Sep 2018 15:29 by @LucasMonk_
Composure, poise, and guile are all qualities that jarringly contrast with the enmity, acrimony, and ferity of The Den.
But Leeds United’s Jack Harrison - on loan from Manchester City - exuded that holy trinity of qualities when he produced a piece of point-winning panache to send his team’s fans delirious and Milwall’s home with carmine countenances, sending a super shot arrowing past Ben Amos to cancel out Murray Wallace’s opener.
For those few thousand travelling United supporters, and thousands of others across the globe, that goal was finer than the finest of wines, and not least because of the team’s barren record in Bermondsey: Millwall had won in their last four home encounters with Leeds.
The exultant celebrations in the away end were a far cry from the heady pathos of just one year ago, when a solitary goal at the same ground knocked United off the top of the table - a blow from which they never recovered as they fell away into mid-table obscurity.
There is a palpable feeling amongst supporters that this year will be different, and that the last-gasp leveller at the weekend augurs well for the rest of the season.
Undoubtedly the sweetest consequence of Harrison’s goal is that Leeds’s unbeaten record remains intact, but tonight’s opponents pose to it a serious threat.
Preston North End have already beaten Bielsa’s Whites - 2-0 in a Carabao Cup tie last month - and are the only team to have done so this season. Led by Alex Neil, a gifted young manager who was harshly dismissed by Norwich City before taking over at Deepdale, North End are currently second-bottom in the Championship, but are much better than their start to the season would suggest. Most members of the side that posted an impressive 7th place and played some marvellous football last season have been retained, and one feels that it is merely a matter of time before they begin to climb the table.
But United are the league leaders, and have played some compelling stuff themselves, in particular, their eviscerating of Stoke City, Derby County, and Norwich City was ruthless and executed with an almost surgical precision, and only Middlesbrough have recorded a clean sheet against them this season.
Will Leeds remain top of the pile with a commanding display? Or will Preston kick-start their campaign with a much-needed victory?
Have your say by leaving a comment below.
Leeds will be without Gaetano Berardi, Patrick Bamford, Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe, who is their top scorer, but could welcome back Adam Forshaw after he returned from injury in an Under-23 match against Sheffield Wednesday.
Preston are unable to call upon suspended duo Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson, who was sent off in their Carabao Cup victory over United last month, while Calum Woods and Sean Maguire are both sidelined with hamstring injuries. Alan Browne is also unavailable after sustaining a calf injury whilst on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Recent League Form:
One to Watch: Jack Harrison, Leeds
Having recently acquired a starting berth in Pablo Hernandez’s absence, Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison has impressed in the draws with Middlesbrough and Millwall and netted a superb equaliser against the latter at the weekend.
The winger possesses excellent technical skill and plenty of agility, and is beginning to show just why City boss Pep Guardiola rates him so very highly.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Geoff Eltringham has officiated four Championship matches this season, showing 11 yellow cards, and last took charge of a Leeds match in March, when Caleb Ekuban and Pablo Hernandez struck to give the Whites a 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Writer’s Prediction: Leeds United 2-1 Preston North End
As is always the case in the Championship, United’s next match is hardly a facile one.
Allowing Preston’s lowly position in the league table to cloud one’s judgement ahead of this clash is to be a fool. North End’s results thus far this season have not been commensurate with their performances, and they showed just what they are capable of when they worsted Leeds at Elland Road last month in the Carabao Cup, despite playing with a man fewer for much of the match.
But while both sides are afflicted by injuries to key players, Leeds should be quietly confident of victory. They were not at their brilliant best on Saturday but still enjoyed a hegemony of possession and fashioned several opportunities in difficult circumstances, and there is more to them than Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe, as Jack Harrison was at pains to point out with his late equaliser at The Den.
Furthermore, Preston’s success under Alex Neil has been founded on a strong and resilient defence as much as it has been on a dynamic and exciting attack - but they have failed to keep a clean sheet since the opening day of the season.
Whilst their recent 3-2 defeat to Reading demonstrated their potential ruthlessness in front of goal, it also accentuated the crippling defensive maladies that have dogged them this season, and when one considers the absence of the tough-tackling Ben Pearson from the Preston midfield, and the fact that only Middlesbrough have kept a clean sheet against United in the league this season, this really must be viewed as a match the hosts should win, though they shall have to play well in order to do so.
Photo: Action Images
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