Ipswich boss Kieran McKenna caught a glimpse of target-man Kieffer Moore’s potential impact despite his side going down 3-2 at Preston.
A nightmarish opening 10 minutes saw the Tractor Boys go 2-0 down, with the final result seeing them drop out of the automatic promotion places.
Bournemouth loanee Moore was introduced at the interval and changed the game with two goals in 12 second-half minutes to give the visitors a late sniff.
And although Ipswich still came up short, McKenna feels Moore can play an important role in future matches.
“You’re always trying to have that variety you need in your playing squad,” said McKenna. “Having options like Kieffer means you can help to have variety in your play, especially in your attacking play.
“I think that’s something we’ve done really well over the past 12 months. We’ve been good at finding those different ways to threaten teams.
“My belief has always been that we have to adapt to the quality of the players at our disposal and try our best to utilise their best attributes. That’s while staying true to our beliefs about how we want to play and how we want an Ipswich team to look.”
Ultimately Ipswich’s shocking start would prove their undoing as they failed to shake off the scars of last week’s FA Cup humbling at the hands of non-league Maidstone.
Will Keane fired home from 20 yards via a heavy deflection off George Edmundson, who was again left cursing his luck when he directed the ball into his own net three minutes later.
Keane then made it 11 for the season after 36 minutes when Mads Frokjaer pounced on an awful pass out from keeper Vaclav Hladky and teed up his striker to slot home from close range.
“It proved to be a really difficult first half at what is a difficult place to come to,” said McKenna.
“We lacked enough profile and presence in that first half and ultimately it cost us.
“We needed to improve of course, and we did, and by the end of the game I thought we probably deserved to get something out of the game.
“It’s a blow at this stage of the season, but we can only improve on that first-half performance. There’s still a long way to go.”
Moore gave Ipswich hope by rising highest to nod home a cross after 74 minutes and then tapped home with three minutes left to make for a nervy conclusion, but the Lilywhites held out for a second successive home win.
Preston manager Ryan Lowe said: “The lads have been fantastic. I thought everything they did from start to finish was brilliant.
“It had to be because Ipswich are a top quality side. It was great to be three up at half-time, but we knew Ipswich weren’t out of it and they’d fight so hard in the second half.
“We knew there would be a reaction. They brought Moore on and he was a real handful, and they went a bit more direct but we defended brilliantly.
“The players have showed a terrific mentality today. We’ve shown we can beat a top side like Ipswich, so now it’s maybe about beating more of the teams in and around us if we’re going to challenge near the top.
“Even at 3-0 at half-time I was a little bit scared to say too much in the dressing room.
“That was for fear of upsetting our rhythm too much, but we’ve hung on against a good team with a great manager who has really got them going this season.”