Preston North End manager Simon Grayson praised his players for their ‘professional’ performance in the victory over Aston Villa at Deepdale.
Goal from Ben Pearson and Jordan Hugill in the first half gave PNE a 2-0 win and they had the chances to put further distance between themselves and the visitors from the West Midlands.
An expensively-assembled Villa side were poor, Ross McCormack seeing a stoppage-time penalty saved by North End goalkeeper Chris Maxwell – that one of only two shots they had on target all game.
Grayson said: “It was a real professional performance from start to finish.
“The players played to the game plan, worked extremely hard and left nothing on that pitch.
“They won their tackles, did everything they could possibly do to win that game.
“We had to stop some top players from playing because Aston Villa had the players with potential to hurt you.
“From start to finish we were very strong as a team, there were some strong individual performances and we were worthy winners.
“It was a fantastic performance given who we were playing against.”
Pearson struck in the fifth minute then played a big part in Hugill’s goal before half-time.
Villa brought big guns McCormack and Rudy Gestede off the bench for the second half but North End put in a great shift to limit their effect.
Grayson said: “Money brings you good players and that is what Aston Villa have got.
“What we have got, different to some other clubs possibly, is players desperate to do what they can and make a career in the game.
“They have got motivation to succeed, be better than they were last year or better than they were the week before.
“I thought they showed that here – they worked, they pressed, they made things very uncomfortable for Aston Villa when Villa had the ball in terms of the way we defended and made blocks.
“When we had the ball we managed the game really well, we had some good chances and worked their goalkeeper a number of times.
“If Villa’s penalty had gone in at the end to make it 2-1 it would not have been a fair reflection of the game because we deserved to win that game by at least two goals.
“That is how it panned out and we have finished the busy schedule we have had in a positive manner.”