Stuart Dallas claimed Leeds United had served notice of their ability to the Championship after his headed goal completed a 2-0 win over Sunderland and softened the blow of Chris Wood’s impending departure.
Dallas came off the bench to score on 74 minutes and wrap up a deserved win at the Stadium of Light, inflicting a first defeat of the Championship season on Simon Grayson’s Sunderland.
Leeds overcame the absence of Wood, who is on the verge of signing for Burnley, to dominate Sunderland after Samuel Saiz opened the scoring in the first half.
Sunderland were one of three sides relegated from the Premier League in May and the club had gone three games unbeaten under Grayson prior to Saturday’s loss.
Northern Ireland winger Dallas said: “Going away anywhere in the Championship and getting three points is a big statement but coming here, this team have just come down from the Premier League.
“There’s a lot of expectation for them to go straight back up but we’ve shown that we’re more than ready and more than good enough to cope with these teams.
“We didn’t just come here to smash and grab. We came here and dominated the game. They had a few half-chances but I thought we looked comfortable. In the end we had tired legs and a few injuries and if we hadn’t have had the injuries we could have had a couple goals more.”
The finishes from Saiz and Dallas compensated for the loss of Wood who withdrew from the game following advanced discussions between Leeds and Burnley over a fee for him.
The forward is United’s reigning player of the year and last season became only the sixth player in Leeds’ history to score 30 goals in one term.
Wood is expected to seal a £15m transfer to Turf Moor on Monday but Dallas said United’s players had been unaffected by the imminent exit of a key squad member.
“People probably looked at it and maybe thought it was going to affect us but it didn’t and we showed that we’re more than a one-man team,” he said. “We’re big enough to deal with these setbacks.
“The manager has shown faith in ever player and we can only move on now. Whatever will be, will be.
“If Woody’s move goes through we wish him well. He scored 30 goals last season and obviously it’s hard to replace a striker who does that but we have belief in this squad. We have a squad here who are capable of achieving great things.
“Woody’s chosen to go a different way and we wish him well but from our point of view we just get on with it and keep moving forward.”
Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest are expected to step up their interest in Liam Bridcutt this week after the midfielder was omitted from United’s squad at Sunderland.
Forest have been preparing a bid for Bridcutt, who has less than 12 months on his contract at Leeds.
The midfielder and former captain has not featured in any of United’s league games so far this season.