Gareth Ainsworth believes former Preston will be in the mix in the Championship promotion race after seeing his Wycombe side beaten 5-1 at Adams Park on Saturday.
Alex Neil made six changes at Adams Park but saw his side hit top form to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Josh Harrop and Alan Browne both scored twice with Daryl Horgan also on target against the League Two side.
“We were outdone by a much better team today,” said Ainsworth.
“Fair play to Alex Neil, he’s got his team working really well.
“They’re fluid, there’s no individuals, they’re a really good team.
“They’ve got some really good players and it’s the best Preston side I’ve seen for a long, long time.
“I think they’ve got a real chance this year of making the play-offs.
“It shows the gulf in class in the leagues. We’re playing one of the form teams in the Championship and it really did tell.
“They were on their A game, we didn’t get to ours and that’s the tale of 5-1.”
Ainsworth had three spells at Deepdale as a player with his name sung by the near 700 PNE fans who made the trip south.
“I’ve given my all for every club I’ve played for and I’m really pleased the Preston fans remembered that,” he said.
"They were great and I’ve got a lot of affinity for Preston. It’s the team I made my league debut for.
“If it wasn’t for Preston North End I wouldn’t be sat here now speaking as a manager after a football career.
“It goes both ways the respect and I really do that they get promoted and do well in the FA Cup.
“I’ve a lot of respect for Alex Neil as well.”