Leeds United: Heckingbottom accuses officials of "cooking up an excuse" in Preston defeat

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Paul Heckingbottom hit out at Preston North End’s second goal and accused the match officials of “cooking up an excuse” for allowing it after Leeds United’s 3-1 defeat at Deepdale.

Heckingbottom criticised the failure of referee Lee Probert to stop play while Pontus Jansson lay on the pitch with a head injury as Sean Maguire gave Preston a 2-1 lead in the 52nd minute.

Paul Heckingbottom.

Paul Heckingbottom.

Jansson was hurt after jumping to clear a corner and was prostrate as Maguire leapt to nod a cross from Paul Gallagher past United goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

The goal came just three minutes after Gallagher converted a penalty, turning around a game which United led 1-0 at half-time.

North End’s fightback from Kemar Roofe’s 13th-minute opener was completed by a late header from Alan Browne, extending Heckingbottom’s poor run of results since Leeds named him as head coach in February.

Heckingbottom, however, pointed an accusing finger at Probert and his assistants, saying: “There was an incident exactly the same in the first half when the game was stopped. They try and cook up an excuse which they always do, instead of admitting they made a mistake.

“You can’t chalk the goal off. The result’s going to stand. The frustrating thing for me is that they’re trying to cook up an excuse for why the game wasn’t stopped. Once the goal’s given it’s not going to change. Just say ‘yeah, I maybe should have stopped it.’

“I asked him (Probert) to come and speak to me and he wouldn’t. The fourth official said he couldn’t stop it because there was no infringement but the first half was exactly the same when there wasn’t a foul.

“They just talk rubbish don’t they? I’ll go and see (Probert) now and he’ll talk some more rubbish.”

Jansson left the field after Maguire’s effort, forcing Heckingbottom to hand a debut to 21-year-old Spaniard Hugo Diaz at centre-back. Diaz partnered 20-year-old Paudie O’Connor, who had made his senior debut against Sunderland on Saturday.

Heckingbottom will be without all of his senior central defenders if Jansson is ruled out of Friday night’s trip to Aston Villa. A bout of concussion would force the Sweden international to miss the trip to Villa Park.

“I’m hoping it’s not concussion because then he’d need to follow protocol,” Heckingbottom said. “I’m hoping it’s just a bang on the head and that he’s fit and available for the next game.”

Heckingbottom cut a frustrated figure after tonight’s defeat worsened a record showing two wins from 12 games in charge of United. He had taken 10 points from those fixtures and seen Leeds drop to 14th place in the Championship.

An experimental line-up produced a strong first half at Deepdale but lost their way immediately after the break as Gallagher and Maguire kept Preston’s faint chance of qualifying for the play-offs alive.

Heckingbottom said: “You’ll never get me sitting here moaning about it. My wife gets it at home. But knowing what you want to put out on the pitch, knowing what the fans want to see, knowing how good it would be when you’re winning games but having your hands tied behind your back through no fault of your own, that’s the frustrating bit.

“We wanted to match Preston and I thought we did. But I’m ready for playing garbage against Villa and winning 1-0. I’m not bothered.”

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