Stephen Darby paid tribute to the returning Andrew Davies after City’s first clean sheet in nearly three months.

Tuesday’s shut-out against Preston ended a 12-game run when they have failed to stop the opposition from scoring.

The goalless draw also heralded the long-awaited comeback after knee surgery for defensive lynchpin Davies. And Darby heaped praise on the performance of his back-four compatriot.

He said: “Dava came back in and did really well but it was similar last year when we lost him for a few months.

“That’s the type of character he is. He always keeps himself fit and looks after his body. You can see the work he put in day to day to get himself back to match fitness. It’s great to see him back out there.

“He’s a good defender and we’ve got lots of them in the squad. That’s the competition we’ve got which can only benefit us because everyone’s fighting for a place.”

City only managed one clean sheet – against Crewe in November – during Davies’ absence.

Darby, who has been a model of consistency at right back, admitted another was overdue.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he added. “We’ve been giving ourselves an uphill battle in recent games by conceding first. Keep a clean sheet and you can always build on that and give yourselves a chance. I thought we really dug in against Preston.

“The performances have been there and you can see the effort but it was good to get a clean sheet again.

“It was an eventful game. They hit the post but we had one or two chances ourselves and I thought the lads were great.”

Kyle Bennett’s early dismissal meant a tactical reshuffle and Darby was given the dual role of full back as well as right midfield – a combination he filled admirably to get forward as often as possible.

He said: “The sending off was unfortunate and we had to adapt things and change formation. Sometimes that happens and you’ve got to be ready for it and I thought we did well.

“We can take the positives from the performance and go to Wolves on Saturday with a little bit of confidence.

“Wolves are a good side but we were unfortunate not to get anything when we played at Valley Parade earlier in the season.

“We went 1-0 up and they came back with two quick goals but we gave them a really good game. There’s nothing for us to fear.”