Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pugh first through United exit
By Phil Hay
Yorkshire Evening Post

Danny Pugh has become Leeds United's first close-season departure after reaching the end of his contract at Elland Road.
Pugh's two-year deal expired after Sunday's Championship Play-off final in Cardiff, and the former Manchester United midfielder has exercised his right to become a free agent this summer.Pugh made an initial impression after moving to Yorkshire as part of the deal which took Alan Smith to Old Trafford in 2004, but his opportunities dried up during the 2005-06 season as Kevin Blackwell relied on other players to maintain the club's challenge for promotion.The 23-year-old's last appearance came on the final day of the term at Preston, but his future prospects seemed limited with Blackwell planning major changes to his squad before the start of next season.Blackwell said: "Danny will be leaving us. He's exercised his right to become a free agent and look for another club."I can't speak highly enough of him, and he's done a good job for us. But he hasn't had too much first-team football here and I'm sure he'll be able to find that elsewhere."MutualBlackwell has also confirmed a significant departure from his coaching team after assistant manager Sam Ellis left the club by mutual consent.Ellis had been with United throughout Blackwell's two-year reign but he ended their partnership after turning down an alternative position within the backroom team.Head coach John Carver is favourite to step into the assistant manager's role, but Blackwell said: "I haven't decided anything yet."Ellis said: "The gaffer offered me a different position but it wasn't one I felt committed to. There are no hard feelings and I've loved my time here, but the best decision was for me to move on."
The Mirror

KEN BATES has told Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell he can no longer hide behind the club's past problems.
Chairman Bates is backing Blackwell despite a 3-0 defeat against Watford in the play-off final. But he warned: "From now on we can't blame previous boards, a lack of money or the fact Kevin had only two players when he took over. That's all gone - it doesn't mean a thing."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Blackwell laments below-par Leeds
Leeds manager Kevin Blackwell said his team lacked a spark after watching them lose 3-0 to Watford in the Premiership play-off at the Millennium Stadium.
"It's a terrible place to come and lose and feel as though you've achieved nothing," Blackwell said.
"We lacked a spark and were second to the ball all over the park. We deserved to lose.
"We had efforts cleared off the line but that's what happens in football. We wish Watford all the best."
Leeds have recently suffered huge financial debt but, following Ken Bates' arrival and a successful run in the Championship, the future looks healthier.
"The club has taken a few kickings recently but we'll bounce back and keep building," Blackwell added.
"It's been a good season, but we've come up short in the last game. We've been third, fourth, fifth all season, but on the day, Watford take all the credit and on the day they deserved it.
"This has showed that the club's got some life back into it and we'll be looking to get back into the Premiership as quick as we can. "We've rebuilt the football club and have become a side that clubs are fearful of. By the time the new season comes round we will be ready to go again."
Leeds 0-3 Watford
Watford booked their place in the Premiership with a convincing victory over Leeds in a frantic play-off final.
The Hornets went in front through Jay DeMerit's powerful header from five yards after Ashley Young's corner.
Aidy Boothroyd's side were two up when James Chambers' shot deflected off Eddie Lewis and looped on to the post before dropping in off Neil Sullivan.
Darius Henderson completed the rout with a cool penalty after Shaun Derry cynically felled Marlon King.
The pitch was badly cut up after rugby union's Heineken Cup final on Saturday and possession constantly changed hands.
The conditions meant Watford persisted with their direct approach, but the surface ensured their opponents found it tough to find a rhythm with their passing and movement.
But both teams started brightly and had early chances.
Watford striker Henderson failed to make decent contact on a close-range header from a corner inside a minute, while Young deflected Derry's goal-bound shot round the post for Leeds.
And after 24 minutes the Hornets were rewarded for their endeavour as DeMerit left his marker Rob Hulse and powered home Young's inswinging corner.
The goal settled Watford down and allowed them to retain possession in midfield as well as causing Leeds problems from set-pieces.
As the frantic half drew to a close, Leeds had a penalty appeal turned down when goalkeeper Foster appeared to push Paul Butler, and Lewis fired a free-kick narrowly over.
Watford began the second half as brightly as they finished the first with Henderson testing Sullivan with a fierce strike.
And they fortuitously doubled their lead on 57 minutes with a freak own goal.
A long throw-in by Gavin Mahon found Chambers who swivelled and shot before seeing the ball loop off Lewis, hit the post and squirm in off keeper Sullivan.
Only Jordan Stewart's outstretched leg on the goal-line prevented Derry heading Leeds back into the game on 70 minutes.
As Leeds pushed for a lifeline, the game opened up further giving both teams a sight on goal.
And Watford could have put the game beyond doubt when Mackay's header was cleared off the line by Lewis with 10 minutes remaining. Minutes later the Hornets sealed their promotion to the top flight when Henderson calmly slotted in a penalty after Derry brought down King.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sick man of Leeds puts faith in northern grit
By Rick Broadbent
The Times
IT’S GRIM up North, which is why Shaun Derry likes it. The incumbent of the Leeds United hard-man role is champing at the bit ready for tomorrow’s £30 million Coca-Cola Championship play-off clash with Watford while championing the merits of the North-South divide. "It’s a different ball game up here," he said with relish.
This 28-year-old is different. A pivotal figure in a season that will end in a winner-takes-all contest for Barclays Premiership status in Cardiff, he is the piratical indie rocker who forms a timeline back to teak-tough Tykes such as Bobby Collins, Billy Bremner and David Batty.
He is the cliché killer who manages to be sick as a parrot and over the moon at the same time, his habit of vomiting before matches once turning Peter Crouch’s stomach. "The big man didn’t like it," Derry said of his erstwhile Portsmouth team-mate. "It’s an adrenalin rush that turns to a sickly feeling. It’s horrible and it’s happened on the pitch before. Certain players won’t come near the toilets when I'm in there at ten to three."
The midfield player has become a cult hero at Leeds. When his side trailed in the first leg of the play-offs semi-final against Preston North End, it was Derry who scorched the turf and exhorted the fans to become even more febrile.
When his mission was accomplished, he pondered the irony of facing a Watford team managed by Adrian Boothroyd. It was 1997, during Derry’s Notts County days, when an accidental clash between the pair left Boothroyd with a career-ending broken leg. "I don’t remember much about it but he’s a great bloke and has the respect of everyone at Leeds," Derry said. "There are no hard feelings." Boothroyd has since said the collision was the best thing that ever happened to him.
"When you play for a northern club, they appreciate hard work and the physical side of the game. Down South they prefer flair. It’s the northern mentality and I love it. I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t drive me on. It’s great to be appreciated as a player but also as a person."
Derry is not a dirty player but he is hard. It has ever been thus with Leeds. The second-leg triumph over Preston came with eight yellow cards and two reds for Leeds, a broken leg and fractured cheekbone for Preston. Billy Davies, the Preston manager, took the defeat on the chin and refused to condemn Leeds for their physical prowess, but there is an uncompromising element to their success.
That was evident after the brouhaha in the tunnel away to Burnley last October. Derry clashed with Micah Hyde and emerged with a black eye. Steve Cotterill, the Burnley manager, called it a kerfuffle. "There’s a number of players from all divisions who get scores settled off the pitch, but I came out on top at Turf Moor," Derry, the king of the kerfuffle, said. "I’m not a cocky person but I outplayed Micah Hyde."
When he was sent off against Queens Park Rangers last season, he suggested that Kevin Gallen, the opposing striker, pay half his fine for his role in the dismissal.
It was the Derry way, a brutally down-to-earth approach that led him to take a pre-match meal of beans and scrambled egg in a greasy spoon near Leeds market before his home debut against West Ham United.
"I probably had about ten Lambert & Butler cigarettes too with all the smoke," he said. That afternoon he scored.
"I want us to be in the top six of the Premiership and I want to be playing there," he said. "I want to stick around and make a mark, because the last time I got into the Premiership with Crystal Palace I was just a bit-part player. That still hurts even to this day.
"Everyone has their own aspirations and dreams and they were taken away from me. Now I’ve moved on and moved up, even though I’ve had to move down to do it."
Derry’s wife, Jolene, sings in The Masqueraders, a successful covers band, while he loves The Stone Roses. "Footballers have bad taste in music and can get stereotyped, like they’re all out of the same basket," he lamented. Not Derry. "I’m different." The sick man of Leeds hopes to complete his unique path to the top tomorrow.

Friday, May 19, 2006

By Mark Walker, PA Sport
Sporting Life
Manager Kevin Blackwell has assured Leeds fans the club will be ready for the Barclays Premiership if they overcome Watford in the Coca-Cola Championship play-off final on Sunday.
The fallen Yorkshire giants appeared destined for years in the wilderness when they spectacularly dropped out of the top flight at the end of the 2003/4 season with unprecedented debts that were to rise to over £100million.
When Blackwell, assistant to Eddie Gray at the time, was appointed manager the following summer he set about building a team from scratch with the very real threat of liquidation still hanging over him.
But two seasons later Leeds stand on the brink of a return to the big time, one game away from completing one of the most unlikely of turnarounds at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff given the legacy of former chairman Peter Ridsdale's boom-and-bust era.
"From Christmas we've been looking at two possible scenarios," said Blackwell.
"The frustrating thing is we can't do anything - we don't know where we're going to be and can't talk to anyone yet.
"We'll start after the final, that will be the best time when we'll obviously be planning for either the Championship or the Premiership."
When asked if his current side was good enough to mix it in the top flight, the 47-year-old replied: "That will be handled. Believe me. And in the proper manner.
"If the club had been run properly before we would not be where we are.
"We went through four or five managers in two or three years. That did not help.
"They gambled. A lot of money was put on red and it came up black."
One of the first men Blackwell turned to when asked to pick up the pieces at Elland Road was Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd and the irony is not lost on either of them.
Blackwell gave Bradford-born Boothroyd, now 35, his big break in the summer of 2004, appointing him as head coach at Leeds where he stayed for eight months before Watford came calling.
"When this club came out of the Premiership it was as low as any club could be, it was not just that we had been relegated, but also the number of people leaving," said Blackwell.
"I could not say from day to day who would be in training and who wouldn't. It was a case of saying: 'You are needed in the office, you are going'.
"The atmosphere was awful. I needed to bring in people who had that little something extra - they had to handle being at a club the size of Leeds United, but also bring a little bit of laughter and joviality to the place.
"In his interview Adrian came across as bubbly. I was at a club where everything was so flat and there was nothing to look forward to. We had no money and I couldn't buy players.
"But Adrian was full of beans and it was that element I needed.
"Every person who came to this club, even the players who only lasted six weeks, did their bit in getting us to where we are."
One who has arguably done more than most is chairman Ken Bates, bought out at Chelsea by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and now throwing his full weight behind the Leeds renaissance.
"He's coming to the game," Blackwell added. "It's important he's there.
"Even the chairman himself, when there was just short of 40,000 for the Preston game at Elland Road, he knew he'd got a great club.
"When Eddie Lewis' goal went in that sound was unbelievable. It really cemented it for me and I think it did with him - to see what the club and the fans are really all about."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

By Mark Walker and Graham Chase, PA Sport
Sporting Life
Leeds have promised to hold an internal inquiry following allegations their players trashed their Deepdale dressing room after the Coca-Cola Championship play-off semi-final win.
It is alleged obscenities were written on the dressing room walls in marker pen, posters stuck up and wash basins wrecked following Leeds' 2-0 victory on the night and 3-1 aggregate win.
A statement from Leeds read: "Following publication of a story alleging Leeds United players trashed a dressing room at Preston, Leeds United have requested photographs to be sent to them."
A club spokesman added: "We would welcome an opportunity to inspect the photographs referred to and upon receipt of them will hold our own internal investigation into the matter."
Preston went into the second leg as favourites following a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.
Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell admitted Preston's celebrations after the first leg, and in particular the reaction of manager Billy Davies, had given his players the perfect incentive for the return.
An ugly match at Deepdale saw Leeds have two players sent off and a further six players booked as the tension and ill-feeling between the sides threatened to boil over.
North End chief executive Steve Jackson does not anticipate any action to be taken
but insists Preston will Leeds' investigation if requested.
Jackson said: "There was some damage to the sinks, vandalism to the cubicle doors and walls, writing on the tiles and some posters were erected on the walls, which is a minor point but nevertheless it is pre-meditated.
"There's not a lot that can happen. We decided it was best not to bring it to the attention of the media because it could look like sour grapes and that's not the sort of people we are.
"It would be nice to just wish Leeds well in the play-offs and hopefully they'll attain Premiership status, but no doubt they've got the burden of this that they'll have to deal with.
"Our thoughts are to let sleeping dogs lie with this one.
"An internal investigation is probably an appropriate course of action to be taken by them.
"The photographs are all over the press but if they want us to supply photographs of the graffiti, we're happy to get those sent across."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Red cards mar Leeds' night of triumph Louise Taylor at Deepdale
Tuesday May 9, 2006
The Guardian
Leeds are marching towards the Premiership but Kevin Blackwell's side appear to be wearing hobnail boots. They collected eight yellow cards and had two players, Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell, sent off for second bookable offences during a heated encounter studded with spiteful tackles in which Preston's Brett Ormerod broke a leg and Carlo Nash fractured a cheekbone.
In the midst of the mayhem - and, significantly, before the two dismissals - Leeds scored two goals, Rob Hulse and Frazer Richardson propelling them towards a play-off final in Cardiff against Crystal Palace or, more probably, Watford.
When a power cut plunged Deepdale into darkness as the half-time whistle blew it was possibly an omen that the lights were about to go on Preston's season. Though the second half started after a 30-minute delay, Billy Davies's side rarely looked like building on the initiative they believed they had gained in drawing 1-1 at Elland Road last Friday.
The night was not helped by the referee Mike Thorpe's morphing from ultra-lenient to fundamentalist pedant. "He was letting hefty challenges go early on but ended up booking everyone that moved; I thought he'd turned into a railway clerk," said Blackwell. "I wasn't sure if we'd have anyone left on the pitch the way the ref was going.
"I'm very sceptical about the two referees we've had for the semi-final. It's a £40m tie and it was too big for them. I don't understand why we should have had a rabbit in car headlights in charge tonight."
Davies had configured Preston in adventurous fashion, his starting side featuring four strikers - Danny Dichio, David Nugent, Marcus Stewart and Ormerod. Unfortunately, Ormerod's leg soon snapped in the wake of a horribly late tackle from Jonathan Douglas. Incredibly, the Leeds midfielder escaped without so much as a talking-to. This was the first in a series of debatable refereeing decisions but with Shaun Derry exerting a more positive midfield influence for the visitors and Nugent's speedily intelligent attacking movement galvanising Preston, the game was almost as exciting as it was snide.
Once light was restored Leeds remembered they are good at set pieces and duly took the lead when Hulse lost his marker at a corner before meeting Gary Kelly's delivery and powering a header past Nash. It was not long before Nash was picking the ball out of his net again after it squirmed through his hands just as he appeared to have saved Richardson's close-range shot on the line. Richardson had reacted with alacrity to the loose ball after Hulse's original cross-shot was inadequately cleared by Claude Davis.
Preston took hope when the Leeds left-back Crainey was sent off for his second yellow-card offence in the space of eight minutes, an unwise hack at Nugent. Paul McKenna's ensuing free-kick looked destined for the top corner but was tipped over by Neil Sullivan, who was relieved to see a Tyrone Mears header disallowed. There was time for Cresswell to clash with Nash as they went for the ball, leaving Preston's keeper with a broken cheekbone and precipitating a mass confrontation. Cresswell was not booked for that but having been previously penalised for an off-the-ball transgression at a corner he finally trudged off after stupidly kicking the ball away. "We'll dust ourselves down," said a magnanimous Davies. "We'll live and learn."
Blackwell angry with play-off ref
Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell was delighted to see his team reach the Championship play-off final although was critical of referee Mike Thorpe.
Leeds overcame Preston 2-0 to win 3-1 on aggregate, but also had Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell sent off.
"There was a power cut, delays, goals disallowed, tackles, bookings and a referee that seemed to lose his way right at the end," said Blackwell.
"I wasn't sure we would have players left the way he was going on.
Blackwell was also unhappy following the performance of referee Phil Crossley who officiated Friday's 1-1 first-leg draw at Elland Road.
"I was very sceptical about the two refereeing appointments made for this semi-final, and I made my feelings known to the powers that be at the time," said the Leeds boss.
"These games are too big for these kinds of officials. For all the teams in the playoff, these are £40m games.
"I don't understand why we should have a rabbit (Thorpe) in car headlights refereeing a game like this, but that's exactly how it ended up.
"He could well have denied two players a massive opportunity to play in the final with his display.
"I will have to have a look at the bookings and think about appealing."
Blackwell added: "I have to say the players showed tremendous tenacity.
"The lads gave me everything and I am very proud of them.
Preston manager Billy Davies said: "I'm very proud and pleased with the efforts with my players this season.
"It has been a tremendous effort, but unfortunately it wasn't to be.
"We can't sit back and make excuses. I wish Leeds all the best. We will now go away for a well-earned break and come back again next season."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Preston 0 Leeds 2 (agg 1-3)
Nine-man Leeds are just one win away from ending their two-year exile from the Premiership after two goals in the space of four minutes from Rob Hulse and Frazer Richardson settled their play-off semi-final with Preston.
With the first leg ending in a 1-1 draw at Elland Road on Friday, North End enjoyed the better of the first half but Leeds' double strike just before the hour put them into the Championship play-off final against Watford or Crystal Palace a week on Sunday.
United, who had six other players cautioned, had defender Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell both sent off for two yellow cards.
But despite North End's Tyrone Mears having a goal chalked off, the hosts could not get back into the game.
It was a bitter contest which included a power failure at half-time, second-half crowd trouble and a number of melees involving the two sets of players.
But exactly five years since they reached a Champions League semi-final against Valencia, United took a major step back towards the top flight.
With the tie so finely poised after the first leg, Preston boss Billy Davies tried to grab the initiative with an offensive line-up that included four strikers, while Leeds initially looked content to contain.
North End started on the front foot, with midfielder Brian O'Neil drilling just wide with just over a minute gone.
However, Preston suffered a blow after nine minutes when bustling striker Brett Ormerod was stretchered off after lengthy treatment following a challenge from Jonathan Douglas, with reports later suggesting he had a suspected broken leg.
As Preston took time to adjust to their new shape following the introduction of substitute Simon Whaley the game grew scrappy and the two sides needed little encouragement for the niggles to start.
It took almost half of the first period for there to be a shot on target but North End goalkeeper Carlo Nash had to be at full-stretch to hold Richardson's powerful half-volley from just outside the area.
Almost immediately at the other end a Graham Alexander corner was headed back across goal by O'Neil but Danny Dichio failed to make sufficient contact with his own header to trouble Neil Sullivan.
Six minutes before the interval, Mears found space on the right flank and crossed for Dichio but the big striker was guilty of a bad miss as his header flew wide.
As the whistle for half-time went, the ground was plunged into semi-darkness due to a power failure in the area around Deepdale.
The floodlights eventually came back on and the second half kicked off 33 minutes later.
Leeds started the second period with more purpose and a Richardson cross sparked panic in the Preston box before the ball was hooked clear by Claude Davis.
Leeds were starting to push their hosts further and further back and they broke the deadlock 10 minutes after the break.
From Kelly's corner, Hulse's run was not tracked and he made no mistake to thump a header past Nash.
And Richardson looked to have put the tie beyond Preston's reach with a second goal four minutes later.
From a spell of pressure down Leeds' left, Liam Miller fed Hulse, who put the ball through a defender's legs and picked out Richardson at the far post for the midfielder to sneak the ball past Nash despite the goalkeeper getting hands to it.
Crainey had been booked just before the hour for kicking the ball away and he saw red in the 68th minute for tripping David Nugent as the striker headed towards the box.
Sullivan pushed Paul McKenna's resulting free-kick just wide but despite enjoying a numerical advantage, Preston were too frantic and the visitors were able to cope with what was thrown at them.
Sullivan tipped a Dichio header over and despite Mears heading the resulting set-piece past Sullivan, the referee ruled Alexander's corner had curled out of play.
Even though Cresswell was booked for a second time for kicking the ball away, the visitors held on for six minutes of added time to book their place in Cardiff.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blackwell Criticises Official
United boss Kevin Blackwell criticised the performance of referee Phil Crossley as Leeds drew 1-1 with Preston in the first leg of the play-offs.
Eddie Lewis brought Leeds back into the tie with a superb second half free-kick after David Nugent had put Preston ahead, and afterwards Blackwell expressed his concerns about the official.
Blackwell was left fuming after what he believed was an inadequate performance from Crossley; Leeds had two good penalty appeals turned down but it wasn't just those incidents he had complaints about.
Said Blackwell:"There were certain things I was disappointed with, I thought the referee was poor, he was rubbish.
"I don't know what half the decisions were for, I don't know whether Preston did and I'm sure he (Crossley) didn't.
"I thought we could have had two penalties but if I say too much I will be fined and I think the referee should be fined for his performance.
"Until we sort out a situation where managers have the right to say what they have got to say, I can't say too much.
"But I have questioned whether it was right to have a referee of his standing at a game of this magnitude. We play a meaningless game at Preston last week and they decide it has to be a Premiership referee - but not tonight. I just don't understand some of the people that run this game."
Crossley will not be in charge of the return leg at Deepdale on Monday.
Blackwell was delighted with the turnout and atmosphere at Elland Road, which saw a 35,000 plus turn out for the first time in nearly three years.
"The fans were brilliant tonight, a lot of people haven't been here for two years and were wondering what has happened.
"It was a fantastic atmosphere and at 1-0 down we really needed them. It was terrific when that goal went in.
"I am disappointed with their goal, we could have done better with it but things happen in games like that and it's how you respond. We kept going, never buckled and our goal was fully deserved."
With away goals not counting for double after normal or extra time, the advantage after the first leg rests with neither team and Blackwell is confident his players can perform well enough to come away with a win at Deepdale.
"It's a one off game and the winner takes it all. It's effectively 0-0 and we're going to their place to win and I fancy it."
Leeds 1-1 Preston

Eddie Lewis' superb free-kick helped Leeds fight back to earn a draw in a tense first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Preston.
Matthew Kilgallon had headed against the post for Leeds before David Nugent put Preston ahead, dribbling past four men before slotting the ball home.
But Leeds levelled when former Preston winger Lewis curled the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box.
The two sides will meet again in the return leg at Deepdale on Monday.
Preston came into the game as the team in form after winning five of their last six games of the regular season - including a final day win over Leeds - while the home side had managed just one victory in the same period.
But Leeds were boosted by the support of their biggest crowd since their relegation from the Premiership in 2004 - and kick-off had to be delayed by 15 minutes to allow all of the 35,239 fans into Elland Road.
When the game did get going it was the home side who made the brighter start, and had a good shout for a penalty turned down after Preston defender Youl Mawene knocked Kilgallon over inside the box.
And Kevin Blackwell's side also had the first effort on goal when Kilgallon rose to meet a Lewis cross at the back post and sent a header clattering against the post.
But Preston were lively too, and Nugent - making his first start since returning from seven weeks out with a metatarsal injury - should have done better when he fired over the bar after a cleverly-worked free-kick.
That was by far the visitors' best chance of the first half - but three minutes after the restart they stunned Leeds by taking the lead.
There appeared to be no danger when Nugent picked up Carlo Nash's clearance but he made straight for goal and ran through the Leeds defence before shooting past Neil Sullivan.
Leeds initially came back strongly, with Liam Miller testing Nash with a powerful shot, but although they continued to dominate possession it appeared they had run out of ideas in front of goal.
In fact, Brett Ormerod almost added to Preston's lead when he smashed Danny Dichio's knockdown goalwards to bring a smart save out of Sullivan.
But with 16 minutes left Leeds finally found an equaliser when Lewis found the top corner with his free-kick despite Graham Alexander's best efforts to head the ball off the line.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Nugent's return boosts Preston who gain upper hand in mind games
Jason Mellor at Deepdale
Monday May 1, 2006
The Guardian
As a diminutive Scot, Billy Davies claims his main lifetime aim is to reach five feet three, but his Preston North End side clearly have loftier ambitions for him. His quest for added stature is likely to be the only tall order at Deepdale in the next couple of weeks, because the team he has fashioned on modest resources is looking capable of ensuring he becomes the shortest manager in the Premiership.
What amounted to an end-of-season stroll was played as though lives depended on the outcome, so heaven knows the commitment levels to be scaled when the sides next meet, at Elland Road on Friday in the second of a trilogy of encounters to contest a place in the Premiership.
There is history between the clubs, and with cross-Pennine pride on the line, those expecting a tame affair should have known better. In the past, Preston fans have watched with growing resentment as they have acted as a feeder club for Leeds with four players leaving for West Yorkshire (one of them via West Bromwich Albion).
Only two - David Healy and Sean Gregan - figured in this comprehensive defeat as Kevin Blackwell made eight changes. They included a first start after 13 months out injured for Steve Stone but the visitors failed to score against Preston for a second time this season. They go into the play-offs with one win from 10 games. "I'm not reading a lot into the result," insisted Blackwell. "A rocking Elland Road is a real place to go to and hopefully we can get a positive result. I'm pleased to get this out of the way."
For the hosts, there was the added boon of David Nugent's return. Despite assurances from Davies 72 hours earlier that the top scorer had little chance of making even a possible play-off final on May 21, the striker's six-minute cameo following the now almost obligatory metatarsal fracture brought welcome relief following a catalogue of injuries.
Wayne Rooney might want to take note. Nugent's injury was deemed more serious than the one that jeopardises the Manchester United striker's World Cup involvement and the 20-year-old has made it back in a shade under seven weeks.
"I've proved it can be done," he said. "Wayne will see I've come back in just over six weeks and hopefully that'll give him a massive boost because England need him. Six weeks ago I thought my season was over. It's unbelievable."
Davies added: "He's come back in just six weeks and five days. How can you explain that? It's a remarkable recovery. Even the doctors are astounded."
Preston deserved their sixth victory in seven games to leapfrog their opponents into fourth and secure home advantage in next Monday's second leg. They were in little danger of dropping points once Brian Stock curled home his first goal for the club following his arrival from Bournemouth in January.
A low 25-yard free-kick past a static Neil Sullivan eight minutes before the interval following Matthew Kilgallon's foul on Jason Jarrett put Leeds on the back foot, although the visitors could point to Uriah Rennie having already played an advantage following the foul, allowing Danny Dichio to shoot weakly.
The second, surprisingly considering Preston's dominance as the contest wore on, failed to arrive until 12 minutes before the end. Frazer Richardson's attempted clearing header from a Chris Sedgwick shot caused chaos in the Leeds penalty area, with Sullivan only able to tip Dichio's follow-up on to the bar, allowing Brett Ormerod to seal the win from a yard out. An unmarked Simon Walton headed Leeds' best opening wide from Danny Pugh's corner midway through the second half, while a fine reaction save to deny the substitute Jermaine Beckford at the death earned Carlo Nash a club record 24th clean sheet of the season. On this evidence, it is a mark the keeper will be confident of extending over the next weeks.