Ward's strike on 15 minutes gives Town the points
Grant Ward’s fourth goal of the season was enough to give Town the points at Portman Road.
The recent signing from Tottenham arrowed in a half-volley on the quarter-hour to cement a positive start for Blues.
Ward could have added a second late on, with Freddie Sears also going close as Blues went into the international break on a winning note.
Town made two changes to the side that drew with Norwich last week, Brett Pitman in for Daryl Murphy and Tommy Smith for Adam Webster.
Pitman was immediately in the action as Blues started brightly, the striker making inroads into the Preston box, his cross just evading the supporting Ward six yards out.
North End were forced into an early change with Jordan Hugill replacing the injured Jermaine Beckford but shortly after Town were ahead, Kevin Bru’s free-kick was cleared to Ward on the edge of the box, his half-volley finding the corner of the net.
Pitman was showing a great touch and link-up play as the focal point of the attack and he released Freddie Sears with a terrific pass on 20 minutes, Anders
Lindegaard’s fingertips keeping out a second goal.
Lindegaard had to be alert to clear from Sears again, before Bart Bialkowski produced a flying save to prevent Callum Robinson’s vicious right foot shot finding the top corner.
Pitman couldn’t quite get on the end of Jonas Knudsen’s cross, the Danish international then hooking the ball well over the bar from 25 yards following a Bru free-kick.
Bialkowski smothered Robinson’s shot from 15 yards as Preston threatened before the break but there could have been daylight between the teams if Clarke had not robbed Jonathan Douglas with a last ditch challenge as the midfielder burst into the North End box.
Bialkowski held firm again from a cross as Town finished the half deservedly in front.
Pitman and Sears, not for the first time, linked up well and Pitman’s reverse pass was destined for his team-mate until Lindegaard’s intervention.
The former Manchester United ‘keeper was in action seconds later to hold on as Pitman challenged for a cross, then clearing as Ward looked to get in.
At the other end it needed a terrific block from Christophe Berra to stop Bailey Wright’s goalbound effort as Preston searched for an equaliser.
Clarke was at full stretch to clear from Sears after Pitman and Ward had linked up, Cole Skuse then jinking his way past three North Enders before Pitman’s return pass destined for the midfielder was cancelled out on the edge of the box.
Teddy Bishop replaced Bru in Town’s first change 15 minutes from time, Blues having a scare soon after when Chris Humphrey’s cross flew across goal and away to safety.
Luke Varney replaced the excellent Pitman - finally at the third attempt after the fourth official appeared to have a problem with the substitute’s board - for the closing stages.
Bialkowski held firm as Preston pressed threatened in added on time, while Ward could have eased Town’s nerves, Lindegaard keeping his side in the game as the wideman tried to round him.
Webster replaced Ward to add some extra security to Town as Mick McCarthy saw out the last few anxious minutes.
Town: Bialkowski, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Knudsen, Skuse, Douglas, Bru (Bishop 75), Ward (Webster 90), Sears, Pitman (Varney 82). Subs not used: Gerken, Digby, Kenlock, Dozzell. Booked: Skuse.
Preston: Lindegaard, Cunningham, Spurr (Doyle 54), Wright, Clarke, Humphrey, Gallagher, Johnson (Grimshaw 76), Welsh, Beckford (Hugill 12), Robinson. Subs not used: Maxwell, Huntington, Browne, Grimshaw, Makienok. Booked: Spurr.