Heckingbottom was missing nine first-team players through either injury or suspension for Tuesday night’s Championship clash at Deepdale but United excelled in the first half and led 1-0 at the break through Kemar Roofe’s 13th-minute opener.
But Leeds capitulated after the interval en route to a 3-1 reverse and United’s injury woes deepened with Swedish international Pontus Jansson taken off with what appeared to be a head injury following Preston’s second goal.
Heckingbottom is left crossing his fingers that one of his most experienced players is not concussed, with Leeds facing the prospect of another headache on Friday evening with a tough looking clash at fourth-placed Aston Villa.
Leeds have picked up just 12 points from their 18 league games played since Boxing Day – a return equalled only by bottom-of-the-table Burton Albion. The Whites have won just twice in 2018 and a frustrated Heckingbottom has picked up only 10 points and just two wins from his 12 games in charge at Leeds.
“You’ll never get me sitting here moaning about it, but my wife gets it when I get home,” said Heckingbottom.
“I nearly swore then. Just from 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 and driving – having your hands tied behind your back so to speak through no fault of our own is the frustrating bit. But it doesn’t matter, we’ve got a big challenge and it’s one where you can look at everyone and how they respond.”