LEEDS UNITED head coach Garry Monk has urged his Sky Bet Championship play-off chasers not to get ahead of themselves after they bounced back from successive away defeats to beat Preston North End 3-0 at Elland Road.
Kemar Roofe and Pablo Hernandez struck before half-time and after Preston defender Alex Baptiste’s late dismissal, Souleymane Doukara added a third in stoppage time as Leeds got their hopes of a top-six finish back on track.
Preston, whose outside play-off hopes were dealt a blow, were made to pay for two glaring early misses by Tom Barkhuizen before Roofe opened the scoring, while both Leeds striker Chris Wood and Barkhuizen hit the woodwork.
“It was really important to respond and we were determined to after back-to-back defeats away from home and that was the key,” said Monk, whose side lost at Reading and Brentford last week.
“We spoke to the group this week after Tuesday’s game and just felt what is important is that when this group is focused on showing what they’re capable of, that’s when they deliver their best performances.
“In the games earlier in the week, there was a lot of talk going on about league positions and points and this would mean this and this would mean that and I get it, I understand.
“We’re fully aware of where we are in the league, but the key is focusing and always showing what they’re capable of.”
Barkhuizen’s free header in the second minute was well saved by Rob Green and the striker later fired wide when one-on-one with the Leeds goalkeeper.
“The first five 10 minutes they had a couple of breakaways, which could have been more dangerous,” Monk added.
“But once we got to grips with it, for the next 50 or 60 minutes we played some really good football.
“We created numerous chances and probably should have capitalised a bit more, but we were playing against a good side and they are in form.
“They were never going to make it easy for us, but some of the football we played I thought was excellent.”
Leeds striker Wood had a first-half goal ruled out for offside and hit the crossbar with a snap-shot following a corner early in the second period.
Barkhuizen also hit the crossbar in the second period from a rebound after Green’s brilliant save had kept out Aiden McGeady’s effort.
Preston boss Simon Grayson was critical of his side’s defending after the visitors lost for only the third time in the league since the turn of the year.
“We started really well and had two great opportunities through Barkhuizen,” said Grayson, who won promotion to the Championship as Leeds manager in 2010 before narrowly missing out on the play-offs the following season.
“But before you know it, we switch off and they got their noses in front. We weren’t good enough defensively and that was the big aspect.
“We created some good chances. We had good possession and played some decent stuff, but it mistakes at key times cost us.
“If you do that against a strong team like Leeds they’re going to punish you.”
Baptiste was shown a straight red card in the 86th minute for his crude challenge on Hernandez.
“I didn’t see anything to be fair and the referee has given it for kicking out or something,” Grayson added. “But Baps says he hasn’t done anything.
“If we don’t think it warrants a red card we’ll look into the situation.”