PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM bemoaned a “sickening” result after a 92nd-minute equaliser at Pride Park denied him his maiden win as Leeds United head coach.
Leeds were on the brink of a first victory since Boxing Day, a result which would have breathed life into their Championship season, when Derby County substitute Kasey Palmer struck from close range to force a 2-2 draw in added time.
United, inspired by the return of Samuel Saiz after his six-game ban for spitting, appeared to have claimed a priceless win when substitute Gjanni Alioski headed home after a counter-attack led by Saiz in the 80th minute.
The club’s long run without a victory has cut them off from the play-off positions and the gap to sixth place remained at eight points last night following a 1-1 draw between Bristol City and Fulham. Heckingbottom, who was taking charge of his third fixture as Leeds boss, said: “It does hurt. I’m feeling it for the players.
“They’re flat in there, they’re down and sometimes that’s what football’s like. But they’ve got to come out of the dressing room with their heads held high because I was standing on the sideline in the 85th minute not seeing Derby scoring. I’m there thinking how well they’ve done and what’s won them the game.
“But I said to the players, we may think we should have had more points out of the last three games but we haven’t got them. That’s the way it goes.”
Palmer struck amid a goalmouth scramble after Leeds captain Liam Cooper – also back after a lengthy suspension – conceded a late corner from a cross which appeared to be heading out on the full.
Heckingbottom said: “We end up giving a corner away. Whether we could have dealt with it better I don’t know.
“Then there’s a ball into the box and it was probably the only one we didn’t get the first touch on in the second half in particular. It’s sickening.”
I said to the players, we may think we should have had more points out of the last three games but we haven’t got them. That’s the way it goes.Leeds United boss, Paul Heckingbottom
The United boss, however, admitted his side had again been guilty of throwing cheap goals away after a wayward header from Cooper in first-half injury-time allowed Andreas Weimann to cancel out a 35th-minute opener from Pierre-Michel Lasogga.
Leeds conceded softly in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Bristol City and Heckingbottom said: “We alluded to it after the last game. I’ve seen every goal and chances against (Leeds this term) because I’ve been looking back through the season and that’s been the trend. It has been the trend.
“If we want to get in the position where Derby and others are in the league, those are the things we have to iron out. We’re working really hard for our goals but giving soft goals at the other end.”
Saiz’s return as a second-half substitute enthused Heckingbottom, who chose to name him on the bench after a six-week absence.
“I did think about (starting him) but not for very long,” Heckingbottom said. “In my head I didn’t think he’d last the game so I’m playing a player who’ll need to come off.
“I don’t like talking about individual players and he’s one person in the team. That’s it.
“But his qualities are different. He gets on the ball and makes things happen. You can’t underestimate the impact a player can have on the crowd and the opposition. Samu’s one of those players.”