Preston’s win at Birmingham came at a ‘crucial stage’ for his side, according to Alex Neil.
Daniel Johnson, Jordan Hugill and Tom Barkhuizen were on target at St Andrews as the Lilywhites bounced back from falling behind.
It was a first away win for more than eight months and lifted Neil’s men up to fourth place in the Championship.
Within 90 minutes of the final whistle, the result had cost Harry Redknapp his job as Blues manager – this a sixth defeat on the spin.
Neil said: “I spoke to the players before the game and told them this was a crucial stage for us.
“We are at a stage where if we win a game, people start to take a wee bit of notice of you.
“If we lose though, they will say ‘yes, that is probably where I thought they were’.
“That is why I was so determined to win and I wanted them to be so determined to win this game.
“Going to Birmingham with all the players they had signed, it was always going to be a tough game for us.
“It was a big game which they needed to win.
“I said to the players before the game that it means a lot to Birmingham but that it should mean everything to us.
“They played that way in the second half and to get the win was very pleasing.”
From Neil’s point of view and that of 1,700 travelling supporters, things had gone off-script in the first half.
They were second best to their hosts for 45 minutes and fell behind to Maxine Colin’s deflected shot.
Neil admitted to delivering some harsh words during the half-time team-talk, with it having the desired effect.
“It was not a quality thing in the first half, nothing to do with that,” said Neil.
“You only produce quality if you actually win a header or a tackle, do the fundamentals right.
“We didn’t do that in the first half but we did during the second and that produced the result we wanted.
“It is all very promising, we have shown people what we are capable of.
“But it is one thing being capable of doing something and actually doing it week in, week out.
“We need to turn that capability into realistic displays on a regular basis.
“I think on Saturday that was the start for us.
“It was our first away win since January, that is a weight off us.”
Meanwhile, North End have appointed Dean Kiely as their new goalkeeper coach.
Kiely, who worked under Neil at Norwich and began work at the weekend, replaces Alan Kelly who left last month.
Jack Cudworth, who has been doing the job since the departure of Kelly, reverts to being the academy’s keeper coach.