Doncaster 0 Leeds 3: Grayson’s milestone marked by win over Rovers

LEEDS United moved into the top six for the first time this season with a classy demolition of Yorkshire neighbours Doncaster Rovers.

It was agony for Rovers manager Dean Saunders, however, who suffered defeat for the first time since replacing Sean O’Driscoll four games ago.

Striker Ross McCormack was the star of the show, scoring a brilliant overhead kick for Leeds that confirmed his status as the leading goalscorer in the Championship.

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McCormack has now bagged 10 goals in 13 appearances this season – the sort of form that will attract the attention of Scotland manager Craig Levein.

Danny Pugh and Tom Lees scored the other goals as Leeds underlined their intention to push for promotion to the Premier League this season.

Rovers had been hoping to extend their revival but Leeds provided a far stiffer test than recent opponents Crystal Palace, Hull City or Peterborough United.

Buoyed by a return of 10 points from their previous four games, and roared on by nearly 4,500 vociferous supporters, Leeds looked extremely high on confidence.

Even the addition of former England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland and West Ham United defender Herita Ilunga to the Rovers’ line-up could not prevent defeat.

Kirkland was preferred to former Leeds goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, now 41, while Ilunga replaced the injured Shelton Martis in defence.

Saunders may be banking on their quality and experience to help lift Rovers up the table but improvement is also going to be needed in other areas of the field to see to that.

Midfielder Robert Snodgrass had recovered from the ankle injury which led to his withdrawal from Scotland’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against Lichtenstein and Spain allowing manager Simon Grayson – in his 150th match in charge of Leeds – to name the side which had inflicted defeat on Portsmouth before the international break.

Rovers defender Richard Naylor, released by Leeds last summer, sent Ross McCormack tumbling to the deck early on prompting shouts for a penalty in the Leeds technical area.

Referee Kevin Friend ignored the appeal and that of Billy Sharp soon after when nudged in the back by Leeds defender Darren O’Dea.

Leeds took the lead with 20 minutes gone when Pugh, on loan from Stoke City, scored for the second game in a row.

Rovers defender George Friend had been penalised near the corner flag for a push on McCormack and Pugh volleyed home the subsequent delivery from Snodgrass.

Replays showed that Pugh had escaped the attention of James O’Connor, who inadvertently collided with team-mate Naylor and failed to recover his position.

For a period both before and after the goal, Leeds were the dominant force, stretching the Rovers rearguard and keeping good possession of the ball. Rovers were getting little of the ball in midfield and James Coppinger’s frustration boiled over leading to a yellow card for a tangle with Clayton.

Leeds broke regularly at speed from midfield – exposing a shortage of pace in their opponents – but they were often let down by a poor final ball.

Kirkland, who had not played first-team football since January, was rarely tested before the interval apart from with the goal.

However, he still showed a good pair of hands to hold a well-driven 25-yard free-kick from McCormack. Striker Jon Parkin glanced a header wide for Rovers but it was a rare scare for Leeds.

Five minutes after the break, McCormack doubled Leeds’s advantage with a stunning overhead kick.

The Scot had his back to goal when receiving the ball from Andy Keogh 10 yards out but leapt acrobatically to volley over his shoulder and into the roof of the net.

Things got worse for Rovers on 64 minutes when Leeds defender Lees rose to head in Snodgrass’s corner.

Rovers manager Saunders looked far from impressed on the touchline. It is safe to say French international Pascal Chimbonda, deemed fit enough only for the bench last night, will soon be getting in his team.

Leeds suffered a late injury blow when goalkeeper Andy Lonergan had to come off following a tangle with substitute James Hayter.

Striker Keogh then rattled the crossbar as Leeds threatened to rub salt in the wounds.

The majority of the home supporters had gone long before the final whistle.

While they will never forget the memory of beating Leeds in a League One play-off final four years ago, it is now 60 years and eight games since they enjoyed a home win over their rivals from West Yorkshire.

Doncaster Rovers: Kirkland; O’Connor, Naylor, Friend, Ilunga; Stock; Coppinger (Bennett 61), Gillett, Oster (Mason 61); Sharp, Parkin (Hayter 70). Unused substitutes: Sullivan, Chimbonda.

Leeds United: Lonergan (Rachubka 75); Connolly, Lees, O’Dea, White; Snodgrass, Clayton (Vayrynen 85), Howson, Pugh; Keogh, McCormack (Becchio 72). Unused substitutes: Kisnorbo, Forsell.

Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).

League tables: Page 31.