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Sunday, 5th August 2018 Kick-off 16:30
Match Preview: Preston v Leeds - Can Whites end fallow spell on the road?
Tuesday, 10th Apr 2018 17:37 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United are targeting a first away victory since Boxing Day away to Preston North End tonight…
Leeds United will be hoping to bring to an end their utterly excruciating wait for an away victory when they face play-off aspirants Preston North End at Deepdale tonight.
United, who presently occupy 13th position in the table, have not recorded a victory on their travels since a 2-1 defeat of Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium on Boxing Day and their failure to garner points away from home was a determinant of Thomas Christiansen’s dismissal as head coach in February.
Yet despite the appointment of former Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom in his place, Leeds’ woes on the road have shown little sign of abating. Draws have been attained against Derby County and Reading, but dispiriting defeats to play-off contenders Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Fulham have mean that Heckingbottom is still seeking a first away victory since arriving at Elland Road ahead of tonight’s arduous trip to Lancashire.
Standing between the Whites and a first away triumph in seemingly aeons is a robust, perhaps abrasive, and workmanlike Preston, coached by Alex Neil, who has fared well since his unceremonious egress from Norwich City in March 2017 after a barren sequence of results.
With five matches remaining, Preston are in 11th place and a mere six points behind Middlesbrough, the team in sixth position. This is in spite of Neil having recourse to a comparatively derisory playing budget. His team are most certainly not spectacular, and seldom remarkable, but there are many managers who would strive to see their charges perform as diligently and efficiently as North End do on the field. Their willingness to compete fiercely for points is made patently clear by the fact that they have received the most yellow cards of any team in the Championship this season. Indeed, their truculence might be their undoing on occasion - but rarely are they comprehensively beaten.
With a well-rounded squad, chiefly British, and copious spirit to match, Preston will doubtless prove stern opposition tonight. Clearly, Heckingbottom’s team must improve upon their insouciant performance against Sunderland if they are to effectively end North End’s play-off aspirations and secure a first away victory since December. Integral to an away win here will be the nullifying of the likes of alacritous winger Tom Barkhuizen, this season the scorer of eight goals and the creator of seven, and dynamic forward Sean Maguire, Preston’s top marksman this term. After a strong showing in his last match with little subsequent reward, United stopper Bailey-Peacock will be keen to keep a clean sheet here.
Leeds will also need to find a means of perforating a redoubtable, tough-tackling backline that includes stalwarts such as full-backs Darnell Fisher and Greg Cunningham and central defender Paul Huntington, formerly of the Whites. Pablo Hernandez, who scored a sweetly-struck eighth goal of the season to salvage a point for United at home to Sunderland in his last match, may well prove key in that regard, as a player with his proven elan and creativity can almost always be relied upon to produce a match-winning slither of panache.
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Preston boss Alex Neil has no fresh injury concerns to consider ahead of this match with Daniel Johnson, who did not feature in North End’s recent away defeat to Reading, the only likely absentee.
Ravaged by injuries and a suspension to Gaetano Berardi, who will now miss the remainder of the season after being sent off in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Sunderland at Elland Road, United will be without several first-team players tonight.
Defenders Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Laurens De Bock and Conor Shaughnessy are all out injured, along with midfielder Adam Forshaw and striker Tyler Roberts.
Irish fledgling Paudie O’Connor partnered Pontus Jansson in central defence as he made his first professional appearance for the club on Saturday, and the former Limerick man could do so again here.
Preston (4-2-3-1): Rudd; Fisher, Davies, Huntington, Cunningham; Gallagher, Johnson; Bodin, Harrop, Barkhuizen; Maguire.
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, O’Connor, Jansson, Anita; Phillips, Vieira; Alioski, Saiz, Hernandez; Roofe.
Record: 15 wins, 15 draws and 11 defeats.
Top Goalscorer: Sean Maguire (9).
Most Assists: Tom Barkhuizen (7).
Shots Per Game: 13.4.
Average Possession: 52%.
Average Pass Completion: 70.2%.
Average Aerials Won: 28.8.
Record: 15 wins, nine draws and 17 defeats.
Top Goalscorer: Pierre-Michel Lasogga (10).
Most Assists: Pablo Hernandez (8).
Average Possession: 50%.
Average Pass Completion: 72.5%.
Average Aerials Won: 21.8.
Kick-Off and Coverage
The game is scheduled to begin at 19:45 (GMT), and coverage shall be available via BBC Radio Leeds from 19:00.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshere), who has officiated six Championship matches this season, showing 14 yellow cards and zero reds.
Assistants: Andrew Garrett and Mark Scholes.
Fourth Official: Anthony Backhouse.
Leeds United face a stern battle against combative and austere opponents as they bid to secure a first away victory of the year tonight.
Saturday’s dour draw at home to relegation threatened Sunderland, who will almost certainly compete in League One next season, was the mother of great disappointment amongst fans of the Whites who had anticipated a comfortable victory.
With United’s failure to produce consistent form since the appointment of Paul Heckingbottom having engendered some excoriation of the former Barnsley head coach, a victory here would go some way to assuaging the doubters. However, with Preston enduring a poor spell at home and United a fallow run on their travels, a draw here appears the most probable outcome rather than the panacea of a first away win for the somewhat beleaguered head coach.
Prediction: Preston 1-1 Leeds
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Photo: Action Images
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