Preston 0-2 Aston Villa: James Chester and Robert Snodgrass on target
By Stephen Mills
Last Updated: 02/11/17 8:30am
Aston Villa climbed to fifth in the Sky Bet Championship following a comfortable 2-0 victory away at Preston on Wednesday evening.
Both goals came in the first half as James Chester headed Villa into a 12th-minute lead and Robert Snodgrass (33) doubled their advantage with a low finish.
The defeat means Preston remain 10th, while Villa - who have now lost just once in their last 12 league matches - move back into the play-off places on 26 points.
Chris Maxwell did superbly to keep out an eighth-minute shot from Keinan Davis, who started for Villa ahead of the injured Jonathan Kodjia - but the Preston goalkeeper was beaten just four minutes later.
Preston: Maxwell (7), Fisher (6), Boyle (6), Woods (5), Earl (6), Pearson (5), Johnson (6), Browne (6), Barkhuizen (6), Maguire (6), Hugill (5)
Subs: Gallagher (6), O’Connor (6), Horgan (6)
Aston Villa: Johnstone (7), Elmohamady (7), Terry (8), Chester (8), Hutton (7), Whelan (7), Hourihane (6), Snodgrass (7), Adomah (6), Onomah (8), Davis (8)
Subs: Jedinak (6), Hogan (6), De Laet (n/a)
Man of the match: Keinan Davis (Aston Villa)
The home side's zonal marking system let them down as Chester found space to powerfully head Snodgrass' left-footed corner over the line from inside the six-yard box, despite the best efforts of Ben Pearson to clear it.
Preston had a strong penalty appeal 10 minutes later when Sean Maguire drove into the box and went down under Chester's challenge and they were frustrated even further in the 33rd minute as Snodgrass scored Villa's second.
Villa's leading striker Jonathan Kodjia failed a late fitness test and didn't even make the matchday squad, so Keinan Davis started in attack. Preston were without captain Paul Huntington through suspension, but Alan Browne returned from his ban.
Pearson lost possession of the ball in midfield and Josh Onomah broke down the left for Villa before squaring the ball across the area for Snodgrass to stroke a low shot past Maxwell with his left foot.
Preston, who started the match without an entire back four through injury and suspension, were forced into two further changes at half-time as Calum Woods and Joshua Earl picked up injuries.
And their makeshift defence survived an early second-half scare when John Terry headed a Snodgrass free-kick over the bar, one of the few chances of note in the second period.
Albert Adomah turned a decent effort over the bar 12 minutes from time, but Villa had already done enough to earn the victory as Preston suffered their third straight Championship defeat.
Man of the Match - Keinan Davis (Aston Villa)
Keinan Davis might not have started the game were it not for an injury to Jonathan Kodjia, but he led the line brilliantly, especially with his back to goal.
His tireless running helped Villa earn the second goal and Sky Sports co-commentator Don Goodman was impressed, saying: "He put himself about and has been an absolute handful. He has more than justified Steve Bruce's faith in him."
Steve Bruce (Aston Villa): "We can't get carried away with it. We're Aston Villa and we've got to be there or there abouts. It's taken a long time to get there and just at the moment we are doing ok. That's all it is. We are going into the winter period and we've had a decent start and that gives us a decent platform."
Alex Neil (Preston): "Goals change games, if we get that next goal at 1-0 the game changes again and we get a lift from that. The second goal is a sloppy pass and from that point, against an experienced team who were happy to sit behind the ball, we found it difficult to break them down."
After two straight away games, Villa have a home game ahead of the international break. They will host Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday afternoon, while Preston visit Ipswich Town at the same time.