Dean Holden praised the versatility of Zak Vyner after the defender’s midfield role resulted in him scoring his first Bristol City goal in a 2-0 win over Preston.
Famara Diedhiou headed City in front from Tommy Rowe’s eighth minute corner, but they were clinging on when Vyner struck 13 minutes from time.
Although he appeared to mishit a left-footed shot from 15 yards, the ball crept inside the far post to stem North End’s second half fightback.
The closest Preston came to a goal was on 57 minutes when Paul Huntington’s header clipped the crossbar from a Whiteman corner.
A delighted Holden said: “Zak will score better goals, but he will always remember his first for us.
“I was right behind the shot and my only concern was that it might spin wide. I just wish there had been a crowd and his family here to see it.
“He deserved it because it was his first start for me in a new position and I thought his performance was outstanding.
“It’s always good to have versatile players in your squad and Zak is developing that way.
“I thought it was a really solid team performance in the first half particularly. We knew Preston would come at us in the second half, but our game management was really good.
“Tomas Kalas and Alfie Mawson are a really strong partnership for us at the back and we defended really well.
“Famara Diedhiou has got us another important goal. Contract talks are continuing with him and hopefully there will be a resolution soon.
“Chris Martin is such a clever player and did some excellent work alongside Fam.
“But I was pleased with all the players. I did my coaching badges with Alex Neil and I knew he would have his team fired up to have a go at us after the break.”
Preston manager Neil was far from despondent about his side’s display, but admitted they started slowly and didn’t test City keeper Dan Bentley enough.
“We didn’t get started for 20 minutes,” he said. “The players seemed to think we would be able to pop the ball around and play pretty football.
“City were aggressive and won the midfield battle. The goal they scored came from us not defending the middle of our box, which was very disappointing.
“But from then on, I didn’t think there was much in the game. For 30 minutes in the second half we were totally dominant, but we didn’t get our final ball right or create enough in their box.
“Our wide players tended to drop back a bit when we fell behind and we never got enough quality crosses into their box.
“Then they came back into it and scored a lucky second goal, which finished it for us.”
Neil gave debuts to goalkeeper Daniel Iversen and deep-lying midfielder Ben Whiteman.
“I thought Ben grew into the game after being a bit safe with his passes in the first half,” he said. “He needs time to bed into the team, but showed he could open up opponents in the second half.
“Dan made a couple of saves, but really didn’t have much to do. They didn’t create much, but we have to be better in making our possession tell.”
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