INJURIES have been the thorn that threatens to burst West Ham United's promotion hopes this season. And nowhere have those injuries been more heavily felt than in defence, where Christian Dailly and Malky Mackay have both sat out for long periods this season.
At Elland Road Anton Ferdinand's name was added to that list of defensive casualties, after the young defender limped off just before half-time with a pulled hamstring.
It couldn't have happened at a worse time for the 20-year-old, who was fast establishing himself as the lynchpin of a much improved Hammers rearguard.
"It's a real blow," mused Anton. "Things have been going well for the last few weeks and the defence was looking settled. But these things happen in football and now I've got to make sure I bounce back quickly and be just as strong, even stronger than before. Hopefully it won't be too long before I'm back.
"I tried to run and suddenly felt my hamstring tighten up. I thought it would be alright and tried to keep running, but when I was jogging it off I could feel it pulling.
"There was no point in trying to carry on when I wasn't fit. I could have cost the team a goal, I didn't want to do that and I might have made the injury worse as well. I was gutted but I'm receiving treatment now and have to go from there."
Having been forced to sit out the second-half, Anton reflected on a game that Hammers should never have lost, admitting that Alan Pardew's men missed a golden opportunity to close the gap on the automatic promotion places.
" I didn't get to see their goals properly as I was getting treatment for my injury," he said. "But definitely in the second-half of the game, we played very well and we had more of the chances.
"The result was made even more gutting when we saw the other results, but that means more than ever, we have to beat Preston."
"It's a very big game for us.Preston are above us at the moment, we've got to make sure we beat them, especially at home. We want to win all our games but we've got to make sure we win our home games for sure."
"They beat us at their place, so we've got something to prove against Preston, and if we could beat them it would be great to get one over on another team pushing for promotion."
In their run of three consecutive victories over Cardiff, Plymouth and Gillingham, Hammers proved how far a solid defence can take you in the Championship, keeping clean sheets in each of those three wins.
Anton formed a key part of that defensive unit and explained that keeping a solid back four in recent matches has helped the Hammers to tighten up at the back.
"We've been very solid in the last few games," he said. "There's been a settled backline and it has shown, in not only the results but the performances. The more we've played together, the more we've grown in confidence.
"The team as a whole, not just the defence, been doing well lately. We lost at Leeds but that game has gone now and we must look forward to Preston, because our performance at Elland Road wasn't bad and we can take confidence from the fact that we're still in form.
"Results last weekend showed how open the league is, but all we've got to worry about is ourselves, not anyone else. We've just got to make sure we win our games and put points on the board."