ANOTHER sluggish start by Huddersfield Town, but a completely different outcome to that at Brentford.
Spearheaded by Nahki Wells, who claimed a double and could well have had a hat trick, David Wagner’s side chalked up the club’s first Boxing Day win since 2011, and the best since Peterborough United were dispatched by the same scoreline in 2001 and Tranmere Rovers were seen off 3-0 the year before.
Now for QPR, when Town will seek a fourth victory in eight games under their head coach and their first back-to-back wins since Charlton Athletic and Bolton Wanderers were beaten under Chris Powell back in September.
Town have never tasted a league triumph at Loftus Road, but could buck the trend if they can replicate the better aspects of this performance.
Preston came with an impressive defensive record of only 18 goals conceded in 22 games.
But they were breached three times for only the second match this season, and had it not been for their highly-rated England Under 21 keeper Jordan Pickford, Town’s goal for column at the halfway stage of the campaign would read more than 27 from 23 outings.
Pickford, who played after North End managed to overturn a suspension, made a string of good saves, although so did Jed Steer.
Particularly important was the on-loan Aston Villa man’s 22nd-minute parry of Michael Keane’s shot from the edge of the area and his 30th-minute save from Adam Reach’s header, either of which would have put Preston ahead had they gone in.
What a shame the 23-year-old couldn’t end his latest stay with a clean sheet.
Having used his knees to thwart Daniel Johnson then somehow pawed away the midfielder’s awkward wind-affected cross from the left, Steer, who can’t be re-signed by Town until the opening of the January transfer window, was beaten by Reach in stoppage time.
At that stage, the goal was of consolation value only for the visitors and their 2,228 fans in a tickets-issued 14,697 crowd, who were left with a tricky trip home because of road problems caused by the heavy rain.
But had North End notched any earlier, the game would have been far from straightforward for Town, who pretty much gained the advantage against the run of play in the 38th minute.
Wells was in the right place to steer home a cross by Emyr Huws, who made his mark on his return after two games out with a hamstring injury.
It wasn’t just his 76th-minute goal, scored direct from a corner with the help of the gusting wind, but his overall contribution as one of the anchor midfielders.
Town’s second came from Wells in the 55th minute, after the striker, who returned in one of five changes to the starting side after the 4-2 loss at Brentford, had an effort disallowed for offside. This time he made the most of a neat pass by Harry Bunn, on for Kyle Dempsey in another half-time change by Wagner, to drill in an angled shot from the right side of the area.
It was the sign of a frontman playing with confidence, and hopefully top scorer Wells, who later hit the outside of the angle with a shot from the left side of the area, can add to his seven-goal tally at QPR, where he made his first Town start just short of two years ago.
Despite the late concession, Wagner will have been pleased with the defensive performance, especially after that damaging first half at Brentford.
The boss looked genuinely bemused when asked afterwards if he had considered leaving out skipper and centre-back Mark Hudson, who looked more comfortable than at Griffin Park.
And Town benefited from another bright display by left-back Ben Chilwell, who has two more matches (at QPR then Bolton Wanderers away next Saturday) before his initial loan from Leicester City ends.