Preston North End 1 Leeds United 1: Injury-time leveller denies Whites winning finale
LEEDS United were denied a final day victory at Preston North End as Jordan Hugill bagged an injury-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Deepdale.
United looked on course for victory after Chris Wood had lashed home a 78th-minute penalty but Leeds failed to see the game out as they dropped to a 13th-placed Championship finish in what may have proved Steve Evans’ last game in charge.
Whites head coach Evans made two changes to the side with Alex Mowatt and Toumani Diagouraga replacing Jordan Botaka and Liam Bridcutt in midfield.
Former Whites favourite Jermaine Beckford started upfront for Preston but Chris Wood had United’s first attempt after just 50 seconds though his long-range effort went well wide.
Beckford was then handed his first sight of goal at the other end but was flagged offside before lobbing over.
But it took until the 22nd minute for either side to go genuinely close to scoring with North End’s Joe Garner heading a dangerous right flank delivery just wide.
The hosts were looking the more dangerous side and six minutes later the excellent Adam Reach forced a smart low save from Marco Silvestri from an acute angle.
But Leeds then went close themselves when a long ball found Wood whose attempt to lob the stranded Chris Kirkland went just over.
A flowing Whites move then ended with a Stuart Dallas cross being headed over by Alex Mowatt.
But North End almost took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Garner’s header from Reach’s left wing delivery narrowly evaded the crossbar.
After clashing heads with Garner just before the interval, United’s Liam Cooper was substituted for Scott Wootton during the break and Leeds were threatened within four minutes of the restart when Calum Woods fired just over from inside the area.
And after Sol Bamba headed wide from a corner, Preston squandered their best chance yet when Reach broke clear one on one but opted to play in Beckford whose effort was blocked before Garner’s follow up attempt was somothered by Silvestri.
Beckford then headed wide as Preston continued to dominate but United then missed a golden opportunity of their own when Mowatt’s cross gave Wood a free header that Kirkland pushed behind for a corner.
Beckord was then given a magnificent standing ovation from both sets of fans as he was subbed, after which a wonderful pass from Lewis Cook almost picked out Leeds sub Mirco Antenucci, on for Mowatt.
Preston continued to probe away but the game looked to be heading for a goalless draw until, from nothing, Leeds won a 78th-minute penalty.
A fine cross from Charlie Taylor just evaded both Antenucci and Kirkland but Kirkland then came scrambling out of his goal and brought down Luke Murphy as he nipped the ball past him near the by-line.
The striker stepped up to take the penalty and lashed the ball home into the roof of the net to spark wild celebrations from the 5,500 Whites fans behind the goal.
It meant Leeds were heading for a top half finish, but Preston caused some anxious late moments with Bamba required to clear off the line to deny Paul Gallagher a tap in.
Silvestri then produced a fantastic save to deny Woods and Preston then thought they had bagged a 90th-minute leveller through Eoin Doyle, only for the North End man to be flagged offside.
But the hosts finally broke through in the second minute of injury time when a defensive mistake from Wootton let in Hugill who failed to find Doyle with his initial pass but then buried the rebound past Marco Silvestri.
United almost snatched a late winner with an injury time corner but Toumani Diagouraga’s header went just wide.
And that was that as Leeds signed off for what will no doubt be an eventful summer after another eventful, turbulent season at Elland Road.
Preston North End: Kirkland, Vermijl, Wright, Huntington, Woods, Browne (Robinson 70), Johnson, Gallagher, Reach, Beckford (Doyle 64), Garner (Hugill 78). Subs not used: Hudson, Pearson, Welsh, Humphrey.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Coyle, Bamba, Cooper (Wootton 45), Taylor, Diagouraga, Murphy, Cook, Mowatt (Antenucci 67), Dallas (Vieira 90), Wood. Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Phillips, Botaka, Doukara.
Referee: A Haines (Tyne and Wear).