Andy Boyle started his first league game for Preston North End but couldn’t prevent the Lilywhites from falling to their third successive Championship defeat at home to Aston Villa.

Steve Bruce’s side move up to fifth in the table after a comfortable 2-0 victory at Deepdale courtesy of first-half goals from James Chester and Robert Snodgrass.

Former Dundalk defender Boyle has struggled for game time since Alex Neill took over from Simon Grayson, but was handed the chance to impress at the heart of the defence. Alan Browne and Sean Maguire, who has scored in his last two games, also stared, while Conor Hourihane and Glenn Whelan started in midfield for the visitors.

Villa took the lead in the 12th minute as Chester rose highest to nod Snodgrass' corner in from six yards.

Preston, who lost at home for the first time this season against Brentford on Saturday, started to get a foothold in the game and came close through Jordan Hugill after 20 minutes as he nodded Josh Earl's cross just wide.

But Villa remained the biggest threat, exposing a Preston side missing five first-team defenders. Josh Onomah won the ball from Daniel Johnson after 28 minutes before firing inches over from 20 yards.

And they doubled their advantage after 33 minutes, capitalising on an under-hit pass from Ben Pearson which allowed on-loan Spurs midfielder Onomah to burst forward and square for Snodgrass to slide home from 12 yards.

Defensive changes at half-time forced Alan Browne into a defensive role after the interval, with Kevin O’Connor and Daryl Horgan introduced off the substitutes bench.

Scott Hogan was also sprung from the Villa bench, but it was routine in the end and should have had a third goal with 13 minutes remaining when Hourihane slipped Adomah through inside the area but he placed a strike into the side-netting with only Maxwell to beat.

John Egan was at the heart of the defence of a Brentford side that claimed a deserved 2-0 win at Birmingham.

Substitute Neal Maupay inspired his team-mates  as the striker came off the bench to win a penalty and score in the final 16 minutes as the Bees extended their unbeaten Sky Bet Championship run to eight games.

Ollie Watkins netted the spot-kick after Maupay was brought down before the Frenchman secured the win.

The Bees, who moved up to 15th, looked like being denied by goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak after he twice thwarted Lasse Vibe and Watkins at St Andrew's.

Maikel Kieftenbeld's rocket hit a post in the first half but Birmingham were second best and remain 21st, just two points above the relegation zone.