'Not really football' - Leeds United man explains second half melee and hits out at Preston tactic

Nigel French/PA Wire
Leeds United defender Joe Rodon says his part in a second-half melee during the dramatic win over Preston North End was simply a desire to look after his team-mates.

The centre-back was one of the first on the scene after Ryan Ledson's heavy, late challenge on Ilia Gruev with Leeds pressing for a winner in the latter stages. Players from both sides came together in a shoving match before Whites skipper Ethan Ampadu pulled his defensive partner away and pleaded with him to calm down.

"I think everyone has seen it's a bad tackle," said Rodon. "We're all one team, I like to look after my players and don't like to see things like that, especially when it's not really football. Not just me, I think all players would do the same for everyone and that's what's important for unity and a strong group."

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Rodon was delighted with Leeds' stubborn refusal to give up on the three points in what was at times an ugly and difficult game. Preston took an early lead and though they were quickly pegged back, they made it scrappy and looked set to see out a 1-1 draw until a late Joel Piroe penalty sent them home empty-handed.

"I thought it was a bit of a frustrating game, I felt like they wasted a lot of time throughout the game, which doesn't always help," said Rodon. "Sometimes these are the most important wins, the boys didn't stop, we dug in until the end and got three points. I think they're very effective at what they do so it was quite difficult, especially with the wind today being quite strong. They gave us challenges but second half I thought we were unlucky not to score one or two. I thought the boys showed great mentality to get three points."

Elland Road erupted at the sight of Piroe drilling in the winning spot-kick, which was awarded for handball after Rodon had won an aerial challenge just outside the box. The defender raced to the technical area in wild celebrations and admitted the previous encounter between the sides, when Illan Meslier was sent off in a 2-1 Preston win, had weighed on minds in the Leeds dressing room.

"I'm not going to say I meant for him to handball but it's important to fight for every ball and fight to the end," he said. "Lucky enough he handled it and Joel was good enough to take the penalty. I think what happened when we played them away, we were all a bit upset and frustrated by that result, so this win meant a bit more to us. It's really important we keep this momentum going at home and come away with three points."

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Referee David Webb let the game run on for a few minutes after the goal and Rodon appeared to be swept up in the Elland Road atmosphere, screaming to the South Stand after winning a goal-kick.

"To be fair I think I probably celebrated a bit early because there was a bit of added on time at the end," he said. "Everyone has seen it this season, the atmosphere here when we're winning, it's rocking, it's incredible and they push us on to give that extra. I thought not just for us as players and staff, to give the fans that at the end was incredible. Hopefully we can put in another strong performance on Wednesday [against Norwich] and carry on this run."

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