Leeds had this game sown up by half-time after a blistering first half in which Brian Deane opened
the scoring and then two goals by David Healy against his former club helped settle the nerves.
United boss Kevin Blackwell went for a change of formation against Preston,
with John Oster making his debut for the Whites. The loan signing from Sunderland was thrown straight in after
proving his fitness in a training session on Friday.
Blackwell went for a 4-3-3 formation with a forward line of Oster on the right hand
side of the three man attack that also included former Preston striker David Healy on the left and Brian Deane in the centre.
The midfield three were Wright, Gregan and Walton, whilst the back four featured the one change
with Danny Pugh dropping to left-back and Matthew Kilgallon having been dropped to the bench.
Leeds took an early lead at Deepdale after Brian Deane sneaked in at the back post to score
a simple but very effective goal to set United on their way to victory.
The 4,000 Whites fans could hardly believe it when another striker - and this one was scripted
- David Healy scored his first Leeds goal on the return to his former club just three minutes after Deane's opener.
The goals came at the end of a ten minute spell of pressure from United that saw them weather
a strong few opening minutes from the home side and then take the game to Preston.
Leeds were piling on the pressure with Deane having first forced the error out of gangly centre-half
Claude Davis to win the ball inside the penalty area and play it back for Healy, but this time he wasn't to punish his old
team-mates, that was to follow.
Then came United's charge on 12 minutes. Jermaine Wright delivered a corner from the
left hand side and nobody tracked Deane's run to the back post where he was left with the simple header in.
It was the striker's first league goal since his return to Elland Road and the relief was evident
on his face.
The supporters had barely stopped celebrating the goal when three minutes later Leeds doubled
A free-kick was delivered into the heart of the penalty area and with four United players in
there to cause problems, Preston could not get the ball clear and eventually it came back to Healy about 12 yards out who
blasted home a low drive.
The curse of the ex player returning had been put upon Preston with Healy coming back to haunt
Leeds were not finished there though, they set their stall out in the first half to show Preston
they meant business and the pressure continued on the home goal.
Healy fired just over the crossbar barely a minute after scoring and then Deane missed a glorious
chance to make it 3-0.
The chance came from great work by Gary Kelly to win the ball off John Curtis, the full-back
delivered it into the box where Wright flicked it on to Deane in a similar position to where he scored from, but this time
he missed the target.
It wouldn't be Leeds playing without the occasional lapse of concentration though and that
came into play just after the half hour.
Butler was shielding the ball for Sullivan to clear downfield, but the United keeper only managed
to hit the ball against Preston striker Andy Smith and the Leeds fans in the stand behind his goal held their breath as the
ball came back towards the goal but missed by an inch.
The Lilywhites thought they had a way back into the game when skipper Chris Lucketti looked
for a penalty after Clarke Carlisle's challenge in the area but play was allowed to continue and Preston could not convert
the loose ball.
Leeds virtually secured all three points with two minutes of the half remaining when David
Healy scored his second Leeds United goal.
It was a magnificent ball forward from Jermaine Wright that caught the Preston defence flat-footed
and Healy was onto the chance like a shot. He bore down on goal but waited for the keeper to commit himself before firing
in from the left hand side of the area.
It meant that Kevin Blackwell's half-time team talk was for once short and
simple - same again please lads!
Preston boss Billy Davies rang the changes at half time, bringing on Omar Daley and Brian O'Neil
for Youl Mawene and Andy Smith.
Leeds had expected Preston to come out after the break with all guns blazing and they managed
to hold firm for just eight minutes before the home side grabbed a goal back.
Richard Cresswell, the former York City city striker and self-confessed Leeds fan, it was who
scored it as his charge took him clear of the defence after getting a lucky bounce and he comfortably beat Sullivan.
The Lilywhites continued to force Leeds back and some frantic defending followed from Leeds
but they held firm.
Cresswell could have made it 3-2 after escaping past Kelly and doing all the hard work, but
then scuffed his shot straight at Sullivan.
Kelly was having another good game for United and it was a case of safety first when he was
forced to head away an inswinging cross towards the back post under pressure from American winger Eddie Lewis.
Preston had another penalty shout on the hour mark when Claude Davis went down inside the penalty
area with Brian Deane chasing him. The referee was certain though that no contact had been made and booked the Preston man
If fears that Preston could yet come back into the game were growing amongst the Leeds bench,
they were extinguished on 71 minutes when United scored their fourth goal of the afternoon.
Hitting them on the break, it was loan man John Oster whose high hanging cross caused all the
problems, eventualy being met by Deane at the back post and he simply headed it into the empty space where Preston keeper
Gavin Ward had been stood and Simon Walton tapped in.
Leeds made their first change after that, taking John Oster off after a decent debut and bringing
Frazer Richardson on.
Preston could have reduced the defecit to just one goal had Brian Deane not blocked Omar Daley's
fierce shot with a brave header. In the meantime, David Healy was booked for dissent and Neil Sullivan had minutes
earlier picked up a card for time wasting.
Brian Deane could have made it 5-2 in the final seconds of extra time
when Frazer Richardson's cross picked him out unmarked in the six yard box but the keeper held onto the shot
from a narrow angle.
It mattered little though and Leeds were well worth the win in the end, the first time they've
scored as many goals away from home since the 6-1 mauling of Charlton nearly two years ago.
Preston North End