LEEDS United began the new year with yet another three-point haul as a Chris Wood double and Kyle Bartley header brushed aside bottom of the Championship Rotherham United 3-0 at Elland Road.
After a disappointing first half, Leeds took just two minutes to take the lead after the interval when Bartley powered home a header from a Pablo Hernandez corner.
United then doubled their lead six minutes after the hour when top scorer Wood blasted home his 15th goal of the season with a delicious volley.
And 15 goals for the campaign quickly became 16 in the 79th minute when the New Zealand international was picked out by a fine cross from Kemar Roofe and confidently slotted home his second and United’s third.
Wins for Reading and Huddersfield Town meant United stayed fifth but the thriving Whites are now only seven points behind second-placed Newcastle United who lost 1-0 at Blackburn Rovers.
Whites head coach Garry Monk named an extremely attacking line up with Chris Wood, Kemar Roofe, Pablo Hernandez, Souleymane Doukara and Hadi Sacko all starting in a 4-1-3-2.
But it was Rotherham who went extremely close to scoring in the seventh minute from a free-kick awarded for Liam Bridcutt’s foul on Izzy Brown on the edge of the box.
Anthony Forde stepped up to take the set piece and his curling effort was tipped away by Rob Green but only into the path of Tom Adeyemi who struck the post before Leeds cleared.
The Whites survived the early scare and began to build some pressure themselves but a right flank attack through Hadi Sacko and a Pablo Hernandez corner was easily dealt with by the Millers.
United’s first proper attempt on goal then arrived in the 19th minute when Doukara fed Hernandez whose low shot from the edge of the area rolled harmlessly wide.
United continued to probe away but Rotherham looked a threat on the counter and Lee Frecklington’s heavy touch ended a potential opening from Danny Ward’s pass in the 26th minute.
Green then turned a low effort from Ward behind for a 33rd-minute corner which was cleared and the Millers then squandered a fine chance three minutes later when Brown blazed an effort over the bar after Darnell Fisher’s pass found him free in the Whites penalty box.
The returning Kyle Bartley then made a crucial tackle to deny Joe Newell on the edge of the area.
Bartley again saved the day two minutes before the break when heading a dangerous cross from Ward behind for a corner from which another dangerous delivery from Forde evaded every Millers man in the area.
Leeds were struggling to get going and Doukara’s wild effort from 25 yards that sailed high and wide was the best it got.
United were lucky to enter the half-time break level and Monk opted to bring on Ronaldo Vieira for Hadi Sacko during the interval.
And within three minutes of the restart United took the lead with when a 47th-minute corner from Hernandez was met by centre back Bartley whose powerful header beat Lewis Price all ends up and whistled into the back of the net.
The goal was harsh on Rotherham given their first half showing but the Millers were almost 2-0 down just nine minutes later.
A superb reverse pass from Hernandez released Roofe - now playing on the right wing - and Roofe’s fine low cross narrowly failed to find Wood who attempted to slide the ball in from close range.
Rotherham hit back with two half chances of their own just after the hour but Joe Mattock’s long shot was deflected wide for a corner from which Adeyemi headed weakly at Green.
But six minutes later Rotherham found themselves two goals down after a clinical close range finish from Wood.
A fine right wing delivery from Liam Bridcutt found the striker in the middle of the area and Wood beautifully controlled the ball before unleashing an unstoppable volley past Price.
Wood then almost doubled his tally five minutes later but his close range effort after fine work from Doukara was blocked.
Doukara was then substituted for Stuart Dallas with 16 minutes remaining and left the pitch to huge applause.
Rotherham then squandered another half chance when Adeyemi fired a poor shot over the bar and Leeds were then denied a third through an unlikely source in the 77th minute when Gaetano Berardi burst clear but saw his low effort cannon back off the post.
But there was no denying the Whites a third goal two minutes later when Roofe’s fine cross from the right wing found an unmarked Wood who tapped the ball home for his 16th goal of the campaign.
Wood was then substituted and left the field to a standing ovation as Marcus Antonsson was introduced in the 82nd minute.
Leeds were home and hosed but still went in search of a fourth goal and were only denied another improvement to their goal difference when a 20-yard free-kick from Hernandez clipped the post in the 89th minute.
Leeds United: Green Ayling, Jansson, Bartley, Berardi, Bridcutt, Hernandez, Sacko (Vieira 45), Roofe, Doukara (Dallas 74), Wood (Antonsson 82). Subs not used: Silvestri, Denton, Cooper, Phillips.
Rotherham United: Price; Fisher, Broadfoot (Wood 84), Belaid, Mattock; Forde (Taylor 70), Adeyemi, Frecklington, Newell (Vaulks 76); Brown; Ward. Subs not used: Bilboe, Wood, Halford, Blackstock, Odemwingie.
Referee: Stephen Martin.
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