DANNY Pugh’s grabbed his second goal in as many matches to help condemn Dean Saunders to his first defeat as manager of Doncaster Rovers.
Goals either side of half-time from Pugh, Ross McCormack, the leading marksman in the division, and Tom Lees enabled Leeds to move up to fifth in the Championship table.
Rovers were given a footballing masterclass in front of the Sky cameras by the promotion-chasing Whites, who were too quick in thought and deed and richly deserved to clinch their first victory on the road in the 2011/12 season. Apart from the opening 20 minutes, Leeds dominated throughout.
It was a reality check for Rovers and Saunders, who had steered the team to two wins and a draw from his opening three matches at the helm.
Saunders made two changes from the side who recorded their first away victory in seven months at Peterborough United. He handed debuts to loan duo Chris Kirkland and West Ham left-back Herita Ilunga.
A groin injury picked up in training earlier this week ruled out centre-back Shelton Martis, forcing Saunders to partner captain George Friend with Richard Naylor at the heart of the defence.
Scotland international Robert Snodgrass shrugged off an ankle knock he sustained against Portsmouth before the international break and was passed fit to play by Leeds United chief Simon Grayson as the visitors resisted the temptation to tinker with their starting line-up.
In a scrappy opening, Rovers, cheered on by boxing brothers Jamie and Gavin McDonnell in the stands, had a penalty appeal turned down in the 11th minute when Billy Sharp fell to the ground under a heavy challenge from Darren O’Dea but the referee waved play on.
Moments later, Jon Parkin cushioned down Brian Stock’s header in the penalty area before seeing his volley on the turn superbly charged down by O’Dea.
Out of nothing, Leeds, unbeaten in four outings, opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Friend was penalised for bringing down McCormack out wide and from the resulting free-kick, Pugh volleyed home. It was poor marking from Rovers as Pugh ghosted in unmarked to turn in Snodgrass’s delivery.
Rovers sought an immediate response and Oster, consistently swapping flanks with James Coppinger, cut inside on his left foot on the edge of the area but his weak strike was comfortably gathered by Andy Lonergan.
Gradually as the half wore on, it was Leeds who started to dictate proceedings, shading both territory and possession. Grayson’s troops were being shown too much respect and given too much time to string passes together and Ross McCormack’s powerful free kick forced home debutant Kirkland into action after Parkin had clumsily fouled Adam Clayton.
Whatever Saunders said at interval to try and galvanise his players fell on deaf ears as the hosts made a sluggish start to the second period and the lively Snodgrass stung the palms of Kirkland with a drive from distance.
But Leeds did not have to wait long to extend their advantage and it was beautiful move. Adam Clayton fed the industrious Andy Keogh, who chipped in a lovely ball to McCormack and the in-form striker acrobatically hooked it home to claim his 10th goal in 13 appearances.
Rovers were barely troubling or posing a threat to Leeds’ backline and it was no surprise when Saunders chose to make a double substitution just after the hour mark. He threw on Kyle Bennett, and fit-again Tottenham loanee Ryan Mason.
It mattered little as the Whites wrapped up the points when Tom Lees rose highest to nod in Snodgrass’s corner in the 63rd minute. Many of the home faithful left after the third goal went in.
Keogh almost made it four late on when he rattled the woodwork after breaking clear of Rovers backline.
- ROVERS: Kirkland 7, O’Connor 6, Naylor 6, Friend 7, Ilunga 6, Oster 6 (Mason 61 5), Gillett 5, Stock 6, Coppinger 5 (Bennett 61 5); Sharp 5, Parkin 5 (Hayter 69). Unused subs: Sullivan, Chimbonda.
- LEEDS: Lonergan 6 (Rachubka 77); Connolly 7, Lees 7, O’Dea 7, White 7; Snodgrass 8, Howson 7, Clayton 7 (Varrynen 85), Pugh 7; Keogh 8, McCormack 8 (Becchio 71). Unused subs: Kisnorbo, Forssell.
- GOALS: Pugh (20), McCormack (51), Lees (64)
- BOOKINGS: Coppinger (30), Mason (90)
- ATTENDANCE: 12,962 (4,209)
- REFEREE: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)