Bristol City 4 Preston North End 2

Darren Ferguson knew inside 12 minutes that his first priority as Preston's manager must be to sort out his defence as his team eventually slumped to a 4-2 defeat at Bristol City.

By then his new team were two down but help was at hand from City's well-publicised failures to protect a lead.

In the season's opening game they surrendered a two-goal advantage in the last few minutes and were close here to a repeat before half-time, but the final scoreline provided a cruel verdict on North End's frailties.

Preston went behind to deep free-kicks from either side of the pitch. The first saw Paul Hartley sweep a 40-yard ball across their defensive wall for Danny Haynes to score at the far post.

The second came in from the right after Richard Chaplow had tripped Bristol City's top-scorer, Nicky Maynard.

City were allowed two shots at goal with minimal interference before centre-back Liam Fontaine joined in to score his first goal this season.

With a shade better timing Maynard would have put them three up before Preston reminded themselves they had a new boss to impress.

Their attacking duo of Chris Brown and Jon Parkin did that, drawing fine saves from Dean Gerken and exposing Bristol City's own brittleness in defence.

The breakthrough just short of the half-hour came when Chris Sedgwick tormented and destroyed Lewin Nyatanga on the right. Brown converted, turning the cross just inside the left-hand post and it was game on as Sedgwick twice came close to grabbing an equaliser.

The home side were close to losing Hartley, a rush of blood seeing him kick the ball away at a free-kick and then appearing to direct a head-butt at a Preston defender. An anxious dugout feared a red card, the referee Gavin Ward settled for yellow.

It was a vital reprieve for, in the second half, it was another long-distance free-kick from the Scotland international that restored City's two-goal lead as centre-back Louis Carey raced through to head in at the far post.

The win looked even more decisive when substitute Evander Sno added the fourth goal in the 90th minute but City couldn't put their late goal hoodoo to rest as Brown hit a long distance free-kick home in stoppage time.