Kemar Roofe’s first goal in a competitive match for Leeds United sent the Whites on the way to victory over Aston Villa at Elland Road.
A 2-0 success, confirmed by Chris Wood’s injury-time effort, lifted Garry Monk’s men up to fourth place in the EFL Championship ahead of back to back games with two of the top three in their next couple of matches.
A tight contest turned Leeds’ way when Roofe got on the end of a superb Souleymane Doukara cross to send a near post header into the top corner of the net on 69 minutes and they held on to their advantage for a win that in the end was fully deserved.
United were without the injured Eunan O’Kane, Pablo Hernandez, Liam Cooper and Liam Bridcutt, but had key defender Pontus Jansson back in defence after he missed the previous two games through suspension and illness.
Top scorer Wood was restored to the starting line-up in attack, but Leeds started slowly and did not manage an effort on target in the opening half.
Villa did not threaten much either, with their best effort a weak header by Rudy Gestede that was comfortably saved by Rob Green.
Jonathan Kodija blazed a shot over after the ball dropped kindly for him following a weak clearing header from Kyle Bartley.
United finally threatened on 21 minutes when Roofe went on a mazy run into the box only to see his shot from a tight angle hit the side netting.
Jansson headed wide after meeting a Charlie Taylor corner and the other home centre-back, Bartley also missed a good opportunity as he headed just wide, but it was no surprise it was still goalless at half-time.
The game had more excitement and a faster tempo after the break with Kodija shooting well wide in the opening seconds and Albert Adomah coming through two attempted tackles to get clear only to send his shot wide of an advancing Green.
Ashley Westwood saw his volley parried away by Green after getting on the end of a nod down by Gestede before referee Peter Bankes waved away a big penalty shout at the other end when Roofe went down in the box.
Doukara’s low cross almost paid dividends soon after while Villa threatened on the break as Gary Gardner’s shot from outside the box was comfortably saved by Green.
Surprisingly that was the last effort on goal the visitors managed as Leeds took the lead and took control of the game in the final 25 minutes.
They went ahead with Roofe’s well timed run to head home Doukara’s cross and had several more opportunities where the final ball or run ended in disappointment.
As the game went into five minutes of added time Wood saw his volley blocked by keeper Pierluigi Gollini, but there was denying United a second goal four minutes later when Hadi Sacko went on a surging run right through the Villa defence from half-way. His shot was parried by the keeper and rolled towards the net before Wood followed up to provide the final touch for his 13th goal of the season.
Head coach Monk admitted his side were not at their best, but he was pleased with the way the players finished the game strongly.
He said: “After the first goal we played our best football. Before that we weren’t at our best, especially with the football. But after that we looked strong.
“I felt we were a little bit passive in the first half. We looked more like ourselves after we scored the first goal.
“Everyone played their part and the crowd got us over the line.
“It’s been a very difficult week, but considering the week we’ve had the effort, commitment and mentality, particularly with a young group, was fantastic.
“Kemar Roofe deserved his goal after his performances over the last few weeks. But he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s more important to get the three points.
“We only had 18 fit players available today and we need to get bodies back, but with the week we’ve had we have to be pleased.”
Leeds United 2
(Roofe 69, Wood 90+4)
Aston Villa 0
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Leeds: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor, Phillips, Vieira, Sacko, Doukara (Dallas 73), Roofe (Mowatt 79), Wood.
Aston Villa: Gollini, Hutton, Elphick, Chester, Amovi, Jedinak, Gardner (Grealish 67), Adomah (Agbonlahor 79), Kodija, Westwood, Gestede (Ayew 77).
Referee: Peter Bankes