Garry Monk on the trip over the Pennines to face Preston North End on Boxing Day: Both Chris Wood and Charlie Taylor are fit for the Preston game, O'Kane misses out again but could be fit for the home game with Rotherham in the New Year, "Woody's injury wasn't as serious as we first thought which is great news."
Taking games as they come, three points is all that matters, on Taylor, needs 'wrapping in cotton wool' and that Leeds won't loose players but will hopefully add to the squad, Hernandez is also fit to be in contention for the game on Boxing Day, made a good point saying "I don't agree that Christmas is a defining point of the season, not at all." and ended with a message for the fans "Keep coming to the games, you have been great"
A Merry Christmas Monk.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ONE AND ALL 🍾
Head to Head
Preston 23 wins
Leeds wins 18
Last Five games
Preston 1 Leeds 1 Champ 16
Leeds 1 Preston 0 Champ 15
Preston 1 Leeds 2 Champ 11
Leeds 4 Preston 6 Champ 10
Leeds 2 Preston 1 Champ 07
Leeds will want to continue their impressive pre Christmas run results when they travel 'over the border' to Preston, buoyed by over five thousand travelling fans they have a excellent chance against their old manager's team. Like most games in this league Preston, on their day are a good side.
With a multitude of links through playing, managerial and boardroom they will want to put one over their former employers.
I see a close game with Leeds edging it by the odd goal in three. Leeds 2-1.
Preston v Leeds
Team news: Two changes, Bridcutt and Berardi replace Vieira and Taylor. Hernandez and Wood on the bench.
Team: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, Bridcutt(c), Phillips, Sacko, Roofe, Dallas, Doukara.
Leeds without doubt were 'up for this', three goals in less than ten minutes made for a entertaining first period, firstly Roofe made sure that Pontus Jansson's header was a goal, then he superbly set up Hadi Sacko for Leeds' second goal.
There was a moment of uncertainty in the usually resolute back line to let the home side back in the game, before 'Sully' Doukara's splendid finish restored the two goal lead. Preston in the second half tested Green and he repelled them in style.
The game's big talking point came when Beckford lashed out at Bartley after a clash on the touch line, the striker had just come back into their squad after a three match ban for fighting with one of his teammates. Hernandez finished the home team off late on with a splendid finish, following a flowing Leeds move.
A superb win.
Ahead of today's Boxing Day clash with Preston at the Deepdale, I got the chance to speak to Stephanie Lambert who runs the popular Preston twitter @PNEfansforum.
How long have you been a Preston fan?
All my life! My old man brought all 3 of his daughters up as lilly whites and we've stayed faithful ever since! We're all Preston born so its only right to support your home club!
Who are your favourite players, this season and in your history?
My personal favourite is Paul Gallagher, he's a top guy! Gave his match worn shirt to my Dad for his birthday. He is really down to earth and such a nice guy! He's everything you want off the pitch and on it! He's great from a dead ball. He's got great vision and can pick some amazing passes out! He's also good at putting in dangerous crosses... a real play maker! You can tell when he's not on the field.
I also like Ben Pearson, he came from Man Utd. Didn't know what to think of him at first but lately he's stepped up massively. He's such a handful in mid, gets really stuck in and doesn't give up! Chases what most wouldn't and goes in for some real meaty challenges! He's so passionate and wears his heart on his sleeve! Love that in a player! He plays great with McGeady and Robinson who also have great skill and pace!
But if we're talking about history, I never forget David Healy, Eddie Lewis and Richard Cresswell. That team was a really strong one and I'll never forget when Leeds came in and snapped all 3 of them up! I was mortified!
Richardo Fuller and David Nugent are obvious shouts, pure pacey, goal machines!
What is your most memorable game?
Any memorable games against Leeds?
Definitely, when Healy returned to Deepdale in a Leeds shirt. Saturday 6th November 2004. Leeds won 4-2 and Healy scored, twice! Both times celebrated in front of the home fans. I'll never forget my favourite player turning in to my most hated, (at the time!) haha!
Also, when you came to our ground last. I remember one of your fans crowd surfing on a surfboard all the way down the stand, hilarious!
Jermaine Beckford is a cult hero at Leeds United, is he close to that status at deepdale?
Beckford got us to where we are today, grabbing a hatrick at Wembley in the play off final. What a day! He will forever be a legend in the eyes of Preston fans for this very reason!
We've seen him do some spectacular stuff. Even scoring from the halfway line.
He's been out a lot since Wembley unfortunately and caused a bit of a stir recently when he got into a bit of a push and shove with Doyle, one of our other players.
But he will always be a legend in our eyes and your fans too! There's usually a chant coming from your away end when we play you... 'your Leeds and you know you are' but we will agree to disagree there! Haha!
You've got a fantastic manager in Simon Grayson, do you think your heading in the right direction with him in charge?
Another guy well respected by the Leeds faithful! SG is legendary. I love him. He has a great eye for talent. Signing on some decent players for peanuts and frees, who have turned out to be great players! I believe we are on the right track. It's difficult for a club like us who don't have as much money as some of the other clubs in the league. If you compare where we our to money spent against others in similar positions in the league it's quite drastic! So given what he has to work with he is doing a mighty fine job!
What positions do you need to strengthen in January?
We have a good team here but an out in out striker wouldn't go a miss. A prolific one who's known. I have faith in our squad though, there doing a good job at the moment. I just think we are a striker away from being big contenders. That being said we are in touching distance of the play offs, so who knows!
Who would be your perfect signing?
Like Nugent. He's great at this level. But anyone who fits the bill really. Ridsdale admitted he went in for loaning Nuge but Boro declined as he was named in the 25 man squad. Though rumours are circulating hes going to Leeds, don't know the truth in it but I would love to see him return home!
Who will be your main threat on Monday?
Chris Wood. Now he has been confirmed fit for the game our defence will have to have this guy shut out of the game! We know he likes a goal! 14 so far, if I'm correct? He's quite a tall lad too so we can't afford to loose balls in the air, even more so ones in the box because if we give him enough chance, he will score! No doubt about it!
Prediction and scorers?
1-1 Chris Wood and Simon Makienok. A tough test and two in-form teams right now. I'm hoping we can get the win though!!
We'd like to thank Stephanie for her answers and wish her and Preston the best of luck for the season!
By Ryan Ingham
Garry Monk's observations on Reading and look ahead to Brentford on Saturday: Wood very doubtful for Saturday, needs another scan on his injury, hopeful it's not serious, O'Kane out of the game and another he hopes doesn't need a operation, Hernandez back in training, said he was "embarrassed for him" when asked about Reading manager Japp Stam, acknowledged that emotions can run high after matches, as a manager he tries to be 'adaptable',
On Rowett being sacked by Birmingham City when they are seventh in the Championship; "Whatever way you put it it's an unbelievable decision. I don't think he deserved to lose his job."
A satisfied Monk.
Leeds wins 11
Brentford wins 9
Last five games
Brentford 1 Leeds 1 Champ 16
Leeds 1 Brentford 1 Champ 15
Leeds 0 Brentford 1 Champ 15
Brentford 2 Leeds 0 Champ 14
Leeds 1 Brentford 1 Div 1 10
Leeds will hope to carry on where they left off on Tuesday, the 2-0 win over third placed Reading might not have impressed the visiting manager Japp Stam but the victory took Leeds back into the top six so they won't be too concerned with the ex manu players post match comments.
Leeds will probably be playing without fourteen goal striker Chris Wood who is struggling with a hamstring injury, either 'Sully' Doukara or Marcus Antonsson could lead the line. Captain Liam Bridcutt played as a first half substitute for Wood and came through without reaction so should start against Brentford, either Ronaldo Vieira or free from suspension Kalvin Phillips will partner him in midfield.
This might seem to most as a 'home banker' but Brentford have back to back wins in the last week and in Hogan have a striker on form.
I still think, even without Wood, Leeds can still get the three points. Leeds 2-1.
Leeds United vs Brentford
Team: One change, Kalvin Phillips replaced the injured Chris Wood. Green, Ayling, Bartley(c), Jansson, Taylor, Vieira, Phillips, Sacko, Roofe, Dallas, Doukara.
In a largely forgettable first half, Brentford's top scorer Hogan had a effort that brought the best out of Green, for Leeds Sacko engineered a chance for Dallas but his effort went over. With half time approaching, Brentford were denied the lead by the linesman's flag. The decision was the correct one as Hogan was clearly offside, a pretty ordinary first forty five minutes.
The second half brought a little more action than the first, Hogan theatrically went down in the area but his pleas fell on deaf referee ears, Egan should have put the visitors ahead, but his effort went wide. Ayling and Doukara both had good opportunities to open the score but failed with their efforts. With time nearly up it was left to 'Captain Fantastic' Kyle Bartley to head home from a Dallas cross, Brentford so nearly equalised in injury time but Egan's effort hit the bar and went over.
Ahead of tomorrow's clash with Brentford, Head of Content Keith Ingham got the chance to speak to Ricky Simons about all things Brentford.
How long have you followed Brentford?
The best players you've seen in the red and white stripes?
John Salako, Steve Sidwell, Alex Pitchard, Jota, Scott Hogan
Can you name any game or games you've seen that stick in your memory?
Since I've supported the bees we have had some amazing come backs and a lot of games that will live long in the memory but beating Fulham home and away back in 2015 and QPR last season for the first time in 50 years are hard to beat.
You seem very at home in the Championship, do you think your near to be a team that could challenge for the Playoffs soon?
We have a very talented bunch of players, definitely one of the best since I've been coming but we have the youngest squad in the league and they are all learning their trade in the championship, I think another season or 2 with the right players added could we'll see us in contention for a top 6 spot.
Can you name a player or players that have shone since the start of the season?
The new lads who signed in the summer from League one, Dan Bentley, Romaine Sawyers & John Egan have all done better than I expected. Scott Hogan is obviously having a great season and Harlee Dean has really come of age since being given the captaincy.
Owners and Manager; What's your opinion of yours and ours?
We owe a lot to our owner, we're very lucky that he's a fellow fan, we obviously can't compete financially with the big boys in this league so different way of running the club is important.
I'm a big fan of Dean Smith because he has a proven history of doing well with smaller clubs I.e Walsall but I think it's work in progress and will take a few seasons with him in charge to get us in contention promotion.
I don't really know a great deal about your owner only what I've heard in the news, in my option the press should get off his back, he obviously cares about the club so good luck to him.
Monk is a top manager and i was surprised when I heard rumours at the start of the season that he was minutes from the sack, he was dropped in at the deep at Swansea and done well and I bet they wish they had him in charge now.
Most memorable game with Leeds?
We've only had 6 in my time supporting the bees but for me it was beating you 1-0 at Elland Road last year, it was our first year in the Championship and we had a point to prove that we belonged here and coming to ER is never easy.
Champions and Runners up, six teams who will be fighting for a Playoff place?
I think the top 2 will be between Newcastle & Brighton, but as we all know this league is far from predictable and as for the 6 teams to challenge for the PO's I'd go for Reading, Derby, Norwich, Wednesday, yourselves and I still think Villa will be up there.
Can you pick three teams to go down?
I'd say Rotherham, Wigan and I can't make my mind up on the third team, I have a feeling it might be QPR because I don't think Holloway was the right appointment.
Prediction of score and scorers for tomorrow?
I'm very superstitious so I never make predictions but with the form your boys are in I'd be happy to come away with a point.
We'd like to thank Ricky for answering our questions and wish him luck for the seasons ahead.
By Keith Ingham
Team news: Four changes; Green, Ayling, Bartley, Phillips and Wood return after the Liverpool cup tie.
Team: Green, Ayling, Bartley(c), Jansson, Taylor, Phillips, Vieira, Sacko, Roofe, Doukara, Wood.
Aston Villa, unbeaten in seven games threatened first as Bartley and Jansson were kept 'on their toes' by a busy but largely blunt Villa front line. They were nearly gifted a goal by some hesitation in the Leeds defence but the chance went over the crossbar from Kodjia.
Another piece of the same confusion in the Leeds penalty area saw Rob Green clash with Adomah after the ball was casually sent back by a Leeds defender, it didn't look a penalty but hearts were in mouths at the time.
The best chance of the game came to the head of Pontus Jansson, Taylor's flighted corner beating all the Villa defenders but the big Swede couldn't direct his header and it flew over the bar, much to the annoyance of said Swede.
Just before the break Taylor was clattered on the line of the penalty area, it looked a definite penalty but instead the referee gave a free kick. Bartley and Sacko both had opportunities before the break but neither took them. 0-0 at half time.
Adomah had a great opportunity early in the second half but instead of bulging the net his effort sailed wide of Green's goal, Roofe was felled in the area but again the referee ignored the penalty pleas of the Leeds players.
The breakthrough goal came as Doukara found time and space to deliver a superb ball onto the head of Roofe, his flicked header sped past Gollini sending the 'Kop' behind him into a frenzy and how the young striker celebrated with his teammates.
He enjoyed too the standing ovation he was given when substituted by Stuart Dallas with just over ten minutes to play, it wasn't over because Villa still tried to create a equaliser. In injury time Leeds put the game to bed, Sacko's wonderful run ending with a shot that although Gollini saved, Chris Wood rammed home the ball from just in front of the goal line.
The superb win moved Leeds up to forth in the Championship.
Celebrating his first Championship goal, Kemar Roofe who was a lot of people's Man of the Match.
Luke Ayling was also mentioned for his superb display.
Garry Monk: After we scored the first goal, we played our best football, we also looked more like ourselves, we were 'passive' and Villa smelt blood, thought once Leeds scored there would be only one winner "once we scored, we looked the more dangerous team", the downside of the victory was he could still be 'critical' of the win, need to play better in upcoming games, singled out Vieira, Phillips and Roofe who all won their personal battles, down to eighteen fit players and wouldn't risk playing O'Kane.
A subdued but happy Monk, a little strange considering the impressive result.
Steve Bruce: "In a game that was not the most enthralling in the first half, you have to take your chances. We had two, we then made a mistake that cost us the game. After that we 'huffed and puffed' but didn't make a dent in Leeds, which was disappointing".
Andrew Butterwick's superb match-day blog of yesterday's game
Cheer Andrew, maybe the clouds may move away from Leeds 11 for ever.
Souleymane Doukara was named in the EFL Championship team of the week. A fitting reward for a player who through hard work has forced himself back into the Leeds first eleven.
Heidi Haigh's always interesting look at the game versus Aston Villa.
As always Thank you Heidi.
Leeds are drawn away to Cambridge United in the third round of the FA Cup, interestingly managed by former Leeds player Shaun Derry.
Ahead of tomorrow's live game against Brighton, I got the chance to speak to Naz, who's extremely happy with the current season and is looking forward to the game.
How long have you been a Brighton fan?
Probably since about 1995/1996, Was born and raised there and lived not far from the Goldstone Ground, however as my parents weren’t fans I never actually went to a game until 2004 when I was 17 – my first ever game was actually the Playoff Final in Cardiff back in Division 2 against Bristol City, where Leon Knight scored a late penalty to take us up!
Who has been your favourite player this season and in history?
This season there’s been many, Bruno and Glenn Murray have been great but I have some serious man love for Anthony Knockaert (as many of us do!). The guy is pure flair and how Leicester didn’t give him a chance in the PL I’ll never know. In my history, Vicente is probably the best player we’ve had but we didn’t see enough of him, and although Bobby Zamora took many headlines with us for his happy habit of scoring goals, I’ll say my favourite ever was Danny Cullip. An absolute rock at the back for us in his prime, and was often the reason for the ‘nil’ part of our many one-nil wins in the lower divisions in the early 2000’s.
Any memorable moments against Leeds?
The 3-3 draw a few seasons ago stands out as it was such a fantastic game of football, although we didn’t get what we wanted from it. Aside from that, we have a really good recent history against them, the 2-0 away a couple of seasons ago also stands out as we even managed a win despite Sami Hyypia not being very much up to the task as our manager. I don’t expect the 4-0 from last season to be repeated at all though!
Chris Hughton has been a revelation since becoming your boss, do you think he’s the man to bring Premier League football to the seaside?
Yes, 100%. I wasn’t sure when we announced him, as I wasn’t a fan of how Norwich played under him in the Premier League, and I’ve been completely mind-blown by the football we’ve played in the last couple of years. We were very one-dimensional under Poyet and Garcia, playing ‘attractive keep-ball’ football, however Hughton has combined the defensive solidarity we had under those two with some sublime counter-attacking football, with proper wingers and proper strikers in a 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1) and long may it continue. We’ve somehow continued to keep the attractiveness at home, with more cutting edge, while playing more pragmatic football when needed especially away or late in games. Aside from that, he never throws his toys out of the pram – seems like a genuinely likeable fellow and a real leader. His signings have also been excellent.
With a promotion race on your hands, who would you like to see join in January?
I would like to see Alexis Sanchez. Can I say that? Realistically our main aim is to keep our key players, and get Dale Stephens to join Kayal in signing a new deal rather than us lose him for pittance to the likes of Burnley. Even a 1 year extension with a ‘non-promotion release clause’ would be best for both sides. Possibly another ‘support striker’ to give competition to Baldock would be great. No need to pull up any trees, stick with what we have, add one or two if we can maybe and keep pushing. If we can replicate last Jan when we signed Knockaert and Skalak i’ll be very happy. We genuinely have 2 players for every position so unless an injury crisis hits or the vultures come calling, we should be ok.
Do you think the automatic spot could be yours this year?
Yes. I say that cautiously because we’re in an almost identical position to last year and we all remember how that panned out as we missed out by 1 goal, and we also need to keep an eye out because Reading, Villa, Norwich and Leeds are also in with a shout. I’d fear Villa the most out of those sides, they have the perfect manager to take them up. But I hate the playoffs, they’re not magical at all and I cannot us face it if we lose in the playoffs again for the 4th season out of 5.
How do you feel about the recent news of Shelvey and Lascelles having their red cards rescinded last week?
Wasn’t it Dummett? I actually haven’t seen the incident with Shelvey but I did think Dummett was a nailed on red, he was all over the back of him. But I’m not particularly fussed what happens with other sides getting suspensions or not, any team can beat anyone in this league with or without key players, We’re only a point behind them despite them supposedly having a superior squad. I’ll take that.
Will you be watching the match with a pint at home or will you be at The Amex?
Neither, I’ll be at my fiance’s work Christmas Party watching on Sky Go on the sly! I generally dislike The Amex, or rather the train situation to get fans home after the evening games. Saturday afternoon games are fine, but evening games are a no-go for me. I live in Surrey so it’s bad enough to get back to anyway. I haven’t actually been to a home game this season, however I’ve been to Reading, Newcastle and Cardiff away. Surprisingly even Newcastle was less hassle to get to than Brighton, and a cheaper night out too!
Who will be your main threat on Friday?
Glenn Murray or Knockaert. Murray is on fire at the moment and Knockaert is just a beautiful beautiful man. Have I mentioned the man-love I have for him? Please don’t hurt him! Murray vs Jansson should be a good battle, very physical I’d expect.
Prediction and Scorers?
2-1, Dunk and Murray with the goals for us (Dunk because I usually have him as first scorer and that would be nice in the lead up to Christmas). Chris Wood will probably get one against us (from the spot of course) after Hadi Sacko outpaces us on the counter and Dunk brings him down. I worry about the pace of Sacko on the counter, and I do think that’ll be your main threat and best way to get at us. I think it’ll be quite an open game, and 2-1 probably won’t justify the chances both sides can create. I think it’ll be a great watch.
We'd like to thank Naz for taking the time to do our interview and wish him the best for what could a very close season.
By Ryan Ingham
Rotherham United vs Leeds United
Team news: Two changes, Liam Cooper replacing Pontus Jansson, Hadi Sacko takes Ronaldo Vieira's place who drops to the bench, slightly unlucky to be dropped.
Team: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Cooper, Taylor, O'Kane, Phillips, Sacko, Roofe, Doukara, Wood.
Leeds dominated the first half and the only surprise was that only two goals were scored by the visitors, Chris Wood after thirteen and Souymane Doukara grabbing the second in first half injury time. By this time Rotherham were down to ten men and a substitute goalkeeper was between the 'sticks', Odemwingie sent off for elbowing Cooper in the face, Camp substituted after a injury in a clash with a Leeds player and his own defender in the penalty area.
With Taylor, Sacko and Roofe having so much time and space it was disappointing that Leeds only had a couple of goals to show for their efforts.
The second half was very disappointing, Leeds could and should have increased their goal difference tally but credit to a Rotherham display who never gave up and deservedly got a goal back with less than ten minutes to play, it could have been worse for Leeds as only a goal line scramble kept Rotherham from grabbing a most unlikely draw. Monk was totally right to be upset at the way Leeds let their opponents back into the game.
This was a game that Leeds so nearly threw away two points and if it had happened they could only blame themselves. The match should have been over and done with before Rotherham staged a late fight back, lessons that need to learned.
Men of the Match: Eunan O'Kane, great first half, provided the 'bullets' for Sacko, Roofe and Taylor.
Bartley and Cooper both had good games too.
Garry Monk: "We brought it on ourselves, we're not good enough to play at anything less than 100%", very unhappy with second half, superb first twenty five minutes but second half wasn't good enough, when asked if the players were thinking of Liverpool in the second half he said "You'll have to ask them, they'd say no and are disappointed themselves"
He finished with this when asked about Liverpool "I'll drop them all!"
A frustrated Monk.
Kenny Jackett: On the sending off; "He put his arm up to protect himself but it looks how it looks and I understand the referee's point of view"
On the game; "There are some positives and there is some spirit in the second half from a young group".
Andrew Butterwick's view on the Rotherham victory
As always a great honest view on a potential 'banana skin' that nearly was. Cheers Andrew.
Five years since Gary Speed's sad passing. Such a tragedy.