Ryan Lowe lauded Emil Riis after the striker scored his first goal in more than 15 months to help Preston win 2-0 at Cardiff in the Sky Bet Championship.
The Danish forward fired beyond Jak Alnwick in the 30th minute to put the Lilywhites ahead against the run of play at Cardiff City Stadium – with Ben Whiteman notching Preston’s second five minutes before the break.
It was Riis’ first goal since returning from a year-long lay-off due to a knee injury, with his last strike coming against Middlesbrough in October 2022.
And boss Lowe said Preston are doing everything in their power to mould Riis into the “perfect” centre-forward.
“We’ve all been waiting for Emil to come back,” said Lowe. “He looked strong physically, I’m pleased with his goal, for him and his team-mates, they’re all pleased for him.
“The build-up to it was fantastic and the way he took it, so I’m really pleased for him. It’s huge to have him back.
“At some point he’s going to have to have a break. We’re just trying to mould him into a perfect striker. But we do need to be careful with him.
“We can’t just slog him all the way through, we’ll manage his days and his loads.
“I’m just pleased for him getting on the scoresheet today after having that long period of time out, as a striker it’s pleasing.”
The Bluebirds controlled the opening 30 minutes but were restricted to efforts from distance, with Kion Etete and Karlan Grant both testing goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.
But Preston looked far more comfortable after taking the lead, with Cardiff’s new-look squad unable to overly concern Woodman.
Aaron Ramsey returned from a five-month absence owing to a knee injury while Nat Phillips, Famara Diedhiou, Josh Wilson-Esbrand and David Turnbull all made their home debuts for Cardiff.
And Bluebirds boss Erol Bulut, whose side are now winless in their last five home games, called for patience as his new players gel in the team.
“We need patience, all of us,” he said. “We’ve got new players, four or five new players.
“We try to get them adapted to the team quickly. I thought Nat was quite good, Wilson came in, but they have to know their team-mates much better and their movements.
“This will come over the next few games. We have many games in the next few weeks and we have to show it.
“We have to continue to show them what they need to do. I hope the next few games will be much better.”
Defeat in the Welsh capital leaves Cardiff seven points adrift of the Championship’s top six.
Victory – their first on the road in six matches – moved Preston to within two points of the play-off spots.