Ryan Lowe praised the “togetherness” of his table-topping Preston side after they won 2-0 at Stoke.
A second-half Will Keane double was the difference as the Lilywhites continued their unbeaten start to the season.
Half-time substitute Duane Holmes proved instrumental for the visitors, winning a penalty for Keane’s opener and then teeing up his side’s second.
Keane converted from 12 yards and tapped in for a simple brace, notching his third and fourth goals since a summer switch from Wigan.
In the process, Preston won their fourth league game in a row for the first time since May 2021.
“I’m really pleased. The performance was fantastic,” Lowe said. “We were defensively solid and resolute, and we knew we could create some chances as well.
“They’re a good team, got some good players and spent a lot of money, but we’ve got that real togetherness.
“We knew it was going to be tough, but our lads put their bodies on the line and deservedly came away with three points.
“We’ve got that togetherness with the group knowing what they’re doing and they left everything out there.
“I’ve always got belief, we’re going to enjoy the moment because we know it’s going to get harder because people are going to want to beat us.
“But that’s fine, we’ve got that real hunger and togetherness, and the lads are taking leadership and going about their business fantastically well.
“I’ve got an unbelievable group of staff who work tirelessly to give the lads everything and they’re buying into it and long may that continue.
“The group behind the players who haven’t been playing have been great, are sticking together and they’ve got that real family feel about them.
“We’ve got more depth, we’ve got good players, we’ve recruited smartly and we’re going to keep smiling and enjoy the moment.”
Ex-Preston boss Alex Neil, who spent just shy of four years at Deepdale, endured a frustrating afternoon at the hands of his former employers.
The hosts had to wait until the 77th minute before registering their first shot on target as their four-match winning run at home was ended.
“It was a frustrating game and there wasn’t much in it,” Neil noted.
“The first goal was always going to be vitally important because if they get it, they’ve been excellent at seeing the game out.
“The second goal was disappointing and at that point we’ve got a mountain to climb, and we huffed and puffed but it wasn’t enough.
“We know the magnitude of the changes we’ve made this summer and we had a new set of players today.
“We were trying to win a league game against a team which has been together for a significant amount of time and knows how to function.
“I’m not trying to blame that for the result, I just thought there were two key moments and we didn’t get them right.
“It was a frustrating day for us and I didn’t think Preston needed to play well to win.
“We know how much has changed at the club and it’s been a baptism of fire; there’s so much churn and it’s hard to get any continuity.
“What will happen in the next few games is we’ll find where people are in the pecking order so that will become clearer.”