LEEDS United took a step closer to sealing a place in the Championship’s play-offs as goals from Kemar Roofe, Pablo Hernandez and Souleymane Doukara sealed an impressive 3-0 victory against Preston North End at Elland Road.
After Preston squandered two golden opportunities through Tom Barkhuizen, United took the lead in the 18th minute when Chris Wood fed Roofe whose deflected effort lobbed ‘keeper Chris Maxwell.
United were then controversially denied a second goal when Wood scored only to be denied as referee Peter Bankes ruled the effort offside but Leeds extended their lead anyway in the 45th minute when Hernandez beat Maxwell to a loose ball.
Both sides then hit the crossbar in a frantic second half which ended with Preston’s Alex Baptiste being sent off for a late tackle on Hernandez, after which substitute Doukara coolly bagged United’s third in injury time.
Leeds should have fallen behind in just the second minute but Barkhuizen put a close range header straight at Rob Green who tipped his effort over the bar.
United were then let off the hook again in the 13th minute when Barkhuizen was released one-on-one but fired his low shot wide of Green’s left hand post.
And Preston were made to pay in the 18th minute when Wood played a lovely one-two with Roofe whose shot took a deflection and looped over Maxwell into the net.
United then looked to have doubled their lead in the 40th minute when Wood raced through on goal and slotted home.
The goal was even announced over the PA system but referee Bankes raced over to his assistant and the effort was mysteriously ruled out for offside.
Roofe then squandered a fine chance soon after but there was no denying Leeds a second goal in the 45th minute when Hernandez beat Maxwell to a loose ball and trickled a low effort over the line.
Leeds were then inches away from bagging a third ten minutes after the interval when Wood’s instinctive effort from a Hernandez corner thumped the crossbar.
Kyle Bartley’s header was then cleared off the line and Vieira went close when his stinging drive was well saved by Maxwell.
But after receiving a heroic welcome as a 71st-minute substitute, Preston’s Jermaine Beckford’s fierce shot was well held by Green.
United then had a very narrow escape in the 77th minute when Barkhuizen smashed an effort off the crossbar which rebounded to Simon Makienok who headed over the bar.
There were then fears that Wood was about to sent off when the striker caught Maxwell with a late challenge but the forward was only booked and then quickly substituted for Souleymane Doukara.
Beckford then narrowly missed a tap in from Barkhuizen’s cross, after which Leeds substitute Stuart Dallas released Doukara one on one but Doukara fired wide.
Dallas was then narrowly denied a tap in from a Pedraza cross as Greg Cunningham cleared and Preston’s miserable day ended with a red card for Baptiste for a late challenge on Hernandez in the 88th minute.
And there was still time for United to add a third when a Kalvin Phillips through ball to Doukara who easily beat Maxwell to seal a comprehensive victory.
Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, Vieira, Phillips, Roofe (Dallas 70), Hernandez (Taylor 89), Pedraza, Wood (Doukara 79). Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Taylor, O’Kane, Barrow.
Preston North End: Maxwell, Vermijl (Johnson 60), Clarke, Baptiste, Huntington, Cunningham, Pearson, McGeady, Gallagher (Makienok 71), Robinson (Beckford 71), Barkhuizen. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Spurr, Browne, Horgan.
Referee: Peter Bankes.