Eddie Nketiah clambered off the bench to rescue a point for Leeds and increase the pressure on Marcelo Bielsa to re-think his team selection.
Nketiah, the Arsenal loanee frustrated by the lack of a Championship start during his temporary move, nodded in four minutes from time after Tom Barkhuizen’s 73rd-minute opener threatened to nick all three points for the hosts.
That Leeds were not ahead themselves by that stage was due to the profligacy of Patrick Bamford, the man whose ever presence in Bielsa’s starting XIs this season has restricted the England Under-21 striker to a bit-part role.
Eddie Nketiah (left) came off the bench to strike as he rescued a point for Leeds at Preston
The Arsenal loanee rose to meet a cross from the left and he scored three minutes from time
‘If you listen to the supporters one second they shout for Nketiah and the next minute Bamford. I have to resolve this situation,’ Bielsa said.
‘This process lasts nine months and we have 46 matches.
‘We are only 25 per cent into the competition and we have time for both of them to shine. If this doesn’t happen it will be a mistake of mine. If Nketiah is not a success in Leeds I will be responsible.’
The hosts had looked to have upset the promotion favourites when Tom Barkhuizen scored
His goal sparked wild celebrations with the Preston North End substitutes in the second half
Preston North End: Rudd, Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Rafferty, Pearson, Browne, Barkhuizen (Green 90+1), Johnson, Potts, Nugent (Maguire 72)
Subs not used: Gallagher, Hughes, Ledson, Stockley, Ripley
Goals: Barkhuizen (74)
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, White, Berardi (Roberts 77), Alioski, Phillips, Helder Costa, Dallas, Klich, Harrison, Bamford (Nketiah 77)
Subs not used: Douglas, Miazek, Gotts, Davis, Clarke
Goals: Nketiah (87)
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Bamford’s brace accounted for Preston’s most recent defeat at Deepdale in April and had his finishing replicated the quality of that appearance here rather than of the past two months, Leeds would have put a dent in the best home record in the Championship.
However, the 26-year-old, took his barren run to eight matches, failing to hit the target when presented with a hat-trick of chances inside the opening half hour: twice heading over corners from Kalvin Phillips either side of thrashing wide when Stuart Dallas’ disguised pass feathered the ball into his path.
The most clear-cut chance of his night, however, was the one dished up to him midway through the second period when Helder Costa surged to the byline and cut back only for the £7million signing from Middlesbrough to make a complete hash of his shot with the goal at his mercy.
The 5,500 Leeds fans let out a collective gasp as Bamford lay prostrate on the turf.
Disbelief then turned to horror six minutes later when Preston delivered the sucker punch on a rapid counter-attack – substitute Sean Maguire dashed down the right flank and Barkhuizen bundled in the finish at the far post.
But Nketiah’s late opportunism – despite the best efforts of the home defence to prevent a looping effort crossing the line – salvaged a draw.
‘We didn’t defend a set play well enough and that’s taken two points off us,’ sighed Preston manager Alex Neil.
It was a frustrating evening for Patrick Bamford (middle) and Leeds before the late equaliser
Marcelo Bielsa’s side remain second as they failed to capitalise on West Brom dropping points