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Leeds United 3 Preston 0: Roberts joins the party as ominous Leeds surge ahead

Tyler Roberts celebrates his second goal. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Tyler Roberts celebrates his second goal. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
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SPEAK about this particular Roses fixture and the infamous phrase of ‘job done’ soon gets a mention.

It refers to two words which came back to haunt former Preston manager Billy Davies after expressing immense satisfaction at a 1-1 draw in a Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Elland Road in May 2006 – ahead of the second instalment at Deepdale.

Ezgjan Alioski pushes past Ben Davies and Darnel Fisher during Leeds United 3-0 win over Preston North End. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Ezgjan Alioski pushes past Ben Davies and Darnel Fisher during Leeds United 3-0 win over Preston North End. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Prior to kick-off in the decisive leg in Lancashire, North End’s tannoy announcer showed similar presumptuous traits in declaring: “Welcome to our penultimate game before we reach the Premiership’ – only for party-poopers Leeds United to promptly book a finals berth.

Such wanton displays of overconfidence would be enough to make Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa positively wince and shake his head with absolute incredulity.

Yet current on-pitch events are starting to make it increasingly hard for sections of United’s success-starved supporters not to start envisaging the glorious potential of promotion.

Last night’s developments will have raised the noise further as leaders Leeds breezed to an eighth consecutive league game without defeat at the start of the season for the first time since 2009-10 – when they returned to the second-tier under Simon Grayson.

It proved a night to savour for the one Leeds player who had yet to come to the party so far in Tyler Roberts

Leon Wobschall

That much was obvious from the jubilant reaction of home fans among a crowd of 27,729 after United’s killer second goal, with chants of ‘We’re Leeds United, we’re top of the league’ echoing around the famous old stadium – a fun place to visit again.

Listen to the assiduous Bielsa and the job has only just started. Although he would surely not fail to acknowledge that some seriously impressive groundwork is being undertaken.

Under the Argentine, Leeds possess a footballing identity with a vibrant attacking style at its pulsating heart and after showing grit in their weekend draw at Millwall, their early-season panache was back in evidence last night.

It was ultimately far too much for Preston and after inflicting a first competitive defeat of the Bielsa era 21 days earlier in the Carabao Cup, the Red Rose outfit did not get close to a rerun.

Tyler Roberts celebrates his second goal (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Tyler Roberts celebrates his second goal (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

It proved a night to savour for the one Leeds player who had yet to come to the party so far in Tyler Roberts, with the teenage striker entitled to feel like the weight of the world had lifted from his shoulders following his second-half brace inside eight minutes – to register his first Whites goals.

A £2.5m arrival in January, a cracked shin sustained in his first full training session ruled him out for the remainder of the season, but he will be feeling a bit better about things this morning.

Earlier, a first half that was as open as the previous home game against Middlesbrough was taut delightfully showcased Leeds’ speed of thought, movement and first-time passing for spells.

With Samuel Saiz and weekend hero Jack Harrison dovetailing effortlessly, United’s efforts yielded an opener which preceded a relentless finish to the opening 45 minutes.

Captain Liam Cooper’s 37th-minute strike may have been slightly scruffy, with Declan Rudd failing to keep out his diving header following Barry Douglas’ corner, but there was nothing remotely unattractive about the hosts’ breathless finish.

It could and perhaps should have put the game out of sight with Mateusz Klich – who had earlier dragged a shot wide with the goal at his mercy after racing clear – guilty of missing his second glaring opportunity after blasting over following Saiz’s pass. Rudd also beat out a fierce drive from Gianni Alioski before relieved Preston heard the half-time whistle.

The chance to settle any fraying nerves arrived when Harrison’s drive shuddered the post following Saiz’s inch-perfect pass – but the gravity of that miss soon subsided.

Kalvin Phillips’ pass sent Roberts away and his lovely lobbed finish finally kick-started his Elland Road career in splendid and timely fashion. An encore arrived when he nodded home Harrison’s centre, another move instigated by the class of Saiz.

Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Douglas; Phillips, Harrison, Klich (Forshaw 88), Saiz (Baker 90), Alioski; Roberts (Dallas 86). Unused substitutes: Blackman, Pearce, Edmondson, J Clarke.

Preston North End: Rudd; Fisher, T Clarke, Davies, Earl; Browne (Gallagher 79), Johnson, Barkhuisen, Harrop (Barker 71), Robinson; Moult (Nmecha 79). \Maxwell, Huntington, Hughes, Burke.

Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).