Preston North End v Leeds United: YEP jury predictions

Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson.

Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson.

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Our YEP Jury have their say on Leeds United’s Boxing Day clash at Preston North End.

MATTHEW EVANS

United haven’t won a Boxing Day fixture since returning to the Championship in 2010 and Christmas is generally a time that us fans associate with the beginning of the end for our season.

Forget turkeys, trees and tinsel; the festive traditions that persist at Elland Road are players that look like they ate several dinners and a bottle of sherry the day before, weird kick-off times, travel chaos and the fear that the approaching January transfer window will derail our season.

How satisfying it is then to be looking forward to a 3pm Boxing Day kick-off with the confidence that Garry Monk and his increasingly professional squad will be well up for a battle when they arrive at Deepdale on Monday.

The last time we had a festive period with anything like this level of optimism was that first season back when a 2-2 Boxing Day draw with Leicester City meant that we dropped out of the automatic promotion places, never to return.

Preston boss Simon Grayson will remember that period well as the closest he came to taking United back to the Premier League. The subsequent failure of the club to adequately invest in January 2011 will forever be blamed for us not capitalising on the opportunity that had opened up and condemning us to the years of nothingness that followed.

Under Monk, United find themselves in a similar position. An unexpected first half to the season has left us with a clear shot at the play-offs at the very least. While Simon Grayson’s 2010/2011 side had attacking flair and goals, Garry Monk’s is more solid and organised and our January requirements are very different.

This side is built on character and determination and it’s a fine balance between adding the extra quality needed and retaining the level of commitment and passion that every member of the squad has shown so far.

Last week’s Brentford game showed that we will struggle to score goals without Chris Wood and it’s perhaps there where cover is most required. However, the quality of our defence means that we can stay in games to the very end and we should have enough to overcome Preston even if, as with last week, the defenders have to score the goals too!

Prediction: Preston North End 1 Leeds United 3.

KEITH INGHAM

Christmas time is usually the time you over spend, over eat and drink but Leeds fans have something even better to think about this festive time, we dare to dream!

Boxing Day brings numerous renewing of ‘old friends’. Simon Grayson, Jermaine Beckford et al will be very keen to disrupt the good run that their ex-club is currently enjoying. Yes, it wasn’t pretty last Saturday but the points on the board were. Winning is a good habit to get into and, hopefully, it continues so at Preston.

Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez may be available after injury and Liam Bridcutt is pushing for a starting spot, but Ronaldo Vieira and Kalvin Phillips continue to play well and the captain may have to wait to get his place back. The back five continue to impress and unless Charlie Taylor’s ‘knock’ is serious I cannot see it changing.

The partnership of Kyle Bartley/Pontus Jansson is the best I’ve seen at the club for a good number of years, added to that one of the best right-backs outside the Championship (Luke Ayling), you can see why the number of ‘clean sheets’ has definitely improved.

Games in the Championship are never easy to predict but I feel the confidence in the squad will be just enough to get the three points on Monday.

Prediction: Preston North End 1 Leeds United 2.

DAVID WATKINS

Our previous visit to Deepdale came on the final day of last season and was a little cameo of the whole campaign. The joy of a late Chris Wood penalty being quickly dowsed by a Scott Wootton calamity that resulted in an even later Preston equaliser. It was the last time we would see Steve Evans too, and he was in bits at the end as he saluted us.

How long ago does all that seem? Only eight months on and Leeds look an altogether more robust unit. No more Wootton, Bellusci or Bamba – now we have one of the tightest back lines in the division. They will need to be at their best this weekend as we face a Simon Grayson side that has a bit of momentum with seven points from their last three games. PNE sit six places and 6 points below Leeds but will have former Leeds favourite Jermaine Beckford and Eoin Doyle available again after their fisty cuffs at Hillsborough. Expect another close encounter of the Championship kind and, despite all the changes, the same result as last season.

Prediction: Preston North End 1 Leeds United 1.

GARY NEWBOULD

After late drama against Brentford and post-Christmas lunch, United head to Deepdale on Boxing Day when they take on Simon Grayson’s Preston North End. The home side are in good form themselves, having lost only two of their last ten fixtures.

United will be hoping that recent absentees Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez are able to return from injury for this match where the Whites will be backed by in excess of five and a half thousand loyal hordes who are sure to make a racket, as ever, on their travels.

Simon Grayson did well as a custodian at LS11 bringing both promotion and a long overdue victory at Old Trafford, however his one Achilles heel was defensively and the Whites certainly have the creativity and firepower to expose any shortcomings in that department. Provided we manage to keep another clean sheet then I can see another three points being gathered on the promotion trail.

Prediction: Preston North End 1 Leeds United 2.

STEPHEN CLARK

Boxing Day football has not been kind to Leeds in recent times so Garry Monk and his men will travel to Deepdale on Monday to take on Preston with a hint of trepidation despite thier recent good form.

United have a decent record at Deepdale and will really fancy their chances of maintaining their place in the Championship promotion hunt.

Much will depend on fitness issues, especially as we enter the hectic period around the festive season.

I’ll be happy to see Leeds come away with a point on their travels, but as I’ve been a good boy this year I’m going to ask Santa to deliver an away win for Christmas.

Prediction: Preston North End 0 Leeds United 1.

MIKE GILL

After a rare eight-day break United hop over the Pennines to Preston, the scene of Steve Evans’ emotional farewell at the end of last season. As with all Simon Grayson sides, Preston are expected to provide tough opposition. With two wins, two draws and a single defeat away to Wednesday in the last five games, this fixture has a draw written all over it. However, if Wood, Bridcutt and Hernandez are available then I’m backing the Whites to keep up the good work.

Prediction: Preston North End 0 Leeds United 1.

Chris Wood celebrates his equaliser at Newcastle United.

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