Birmingham City 3 Preston North End 0 - match report on a bad day at St Andrew's for the Lilywhites
Preston North End saw their nine-game unbeaten run come to an end as they had a second-half to forget against Birmingham City at St Andrew's.
North End had got into the break all-square after having plenty of defending to do in the first half without being overly stretched.
But just a minute into the second half a terrible mistake from goalkeeper Declan Rudd handed the initiative to Birmingham.
Rudd allowed a 40-yard from Maikel Kieftenbeld to bounce through his legs as he bent down to pick it up, the keeper watching in horror as it went into the net.
That knocked the stuffing out of North End, with Jacques Maghoma and Che Adams scoring further goals to seal a comfortable victory for the home side.
Injuries clearly took their toll on the visitors, seven players missing the game and Josh Earl limping off at half-time.
Alex Neil had been forced into two changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough last Tuesday night.
Skipper Tom Clarke and Ben Pearson were ruled out Clarke having suffered a facial injury and Pearson with a thigh strain.
Darnell Fisher returned at right-back in place of Clarke, with Ryan Ledson taking over the midfield holding role from Pearson.
On the bench there was a place among the substitutes for 18-year-old midfielder Jack Baxter.
North End were very much on the back foot for the opening 20 minutes, not a huge surprise bearing in mind the long list of injuries.
But in general they coped well with Birmingham's direct approach in that spell.
Lukas Jutkiewicz headed wide under pressure from Paul Huntington with the hosts' first chance, Jordan Storey clearing the same player's downward header out of the six-yard box soon after.
In the 13th minute, Blues skipper Michael Morrison met a Connor Mahoney corner but angled his header wide of the target.
North End played their way into the game, beginning to venture forward more as the first half went on.
Their first sight of goal came as the half-hour mark approached, Tom Barkhuizen's long throw-in from the right cleared as far as Moult just inside the box.
With his back to goal, Moult flicked the ball up in the air and produced an overhead kick which Birmingham goalkeeper Lee Camp tipped over the bar.
Four minutes later, Paul Gallagher's inswinging free-kick from the left channel found the run of Huntington but he could only guided a header straight into Camp's gloves.
On his 50th appearance for North End, there was a chance in the 41st minute for Fisher to score his first goal for the club.
He came inside off the right-wing, cut into the box and saw a shot saved by Camp at the near post.
All the good work of the first half keeping their hosts at arms' length was undone a minute after the re-start.
There seemed no danger when the ball was played inside to Kieftenbeld who was 40 yards from goal.
He hit a hopeful shot which bounced twice and somehow through the legs of Rudd as the keeper bent down to pick it up.
It was a horrible moment for Rudd and he looked distraught as team-mates went to console him.
He did his job a couple of minutes later though, making a double save from Gary Gardner and Lukas Jutkiewicz as the home side turned up the pressure.
First he dived to parry Gardner's drive from outside the box, picking himself up off the floor quickly to turn Jutkiewicz's follow-up behind.
But Rudd was helpless to prevent Birmingham stretching their lead in the 61st minute.
Maghoma got the room on the right hand side of the box to chest the ball down, turn and fire a low shot into the far bottom corner.
At 2-0 down North End had a couple of chances, substitute Lukas Nmecha - on for Barker - driving a shot over the bar after getting into the box, then Gallagher whipped a free-kick around the wall and wide.
Birmingham got their third goal in the 77th minute, Adams getting the better of Fisher when chasing a long ball down the left and cutting inside before opening up his body and curling a shot past Rudd into the far side of the net.
Deep in stoppage-time, Omar Bogle got clear of the PNE defence but Rudd blocked the substitute's shot with his legs and out it went for a corner.
Birmingham: Camp, Colin, Morrison, Dean, Pedersen, Mahoney (Harding 74), G Gardner, Kieftenbeld, Maghoma (Cogley 88), Jutkiewicz (Bogle 82), Adams. Subs (not used): Roberts, Lakin, C Gardner, Trueman.
PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Storey, Huntington, Earl (Hughes 46), Ledson, Gallagher, Barkhuizen, Browne (Burke 78), Barker (Nmecha 57), Moult. Subs (not used): Davies, Woods, Baxter, Maxwell.
Referee: David Webb (County Durham)
Attendance: 20,523 (1,258 PNE)