Simon Grayson was pleased with how Ben Pearson adapted to a more attacking role in Preston North End’s midfield at Nottingham Forest.
Pearson replaced the injured Alan Browne in the starting XI and was arguably the Lilywhites’ best performer in the City Ground defeat.
In previous appearances, the January buy from Manchester United had been used more as a holding midfielder.
North End boss Grayson, who is in the running for the Championship manager of the month award, said: “I thought Ben played very well at Forest.
“He played in a different role to where we had asked him to previously.
“In his other games, he had played as a holder but this time we wanted him driving forward.
“Ben was good on the ball, he puts in a few tackles and I was pleased with how he affected the game.
“He was our engine and got us pushing up the pitch.
“When we signed Ben, we knew he was a versatile midfielder who could give us different things.
“For several months we watched him when he was on loan at Barnsley.
“He started of there as a box-to-box midfielder, then Barnsley started using him as holding player. Ben can do that Alan Browne role, so it was a straight swap when Alan was injured.
“I was really pleased with him and performances like that give you the opportunity to stay in the team.”
Pearson made four starts after joining from United for £300,000 before a two-game suspension took him out of the side.
Since returning from his ban, he has been a sub in four games, before getting the nod against Forest.
Browne was ruled out after being injured against Brighton last Saturday.
He joined Neil Kilkenny on the casualty list, leaving North End slightly short of numbers.
Said Grayson: “Alan had a problem with his hip flexor after the weekend.
“Hopefully he will be back for the game at Bolton on Saturday.
“We had young Clive Smith on the bench because we were down on numbers.”
Grayson has been shortlisted for the manager of the month award for February together with Sean Dyche (Burnley), Chris Hughton (Brighton) and Lee Johnson (Bristol City).
The winner will be announced tomorrow.
North End won four games on the bounce last month but ended it with defeat at Cardiff.
That has been followed with the goalless draw against Brighton and the Forest loss, a run Grayson wants to see end at Bolton on Saturday.
“We have suffered back-to-back away defeats, which is not so good.
“I thought we gave a good account of ourselves at both Cardiff and Forest but have come out on the wrong side.
“We’ll dust ourselves down and get ready for a big derby game at Bolton, one we are looking forward to.”