PNE U18s put on a dazzling display as they eased to a resounding victory over Accrington Stanley on Saturday morning.The youngster added: “Brandon’s a great player. He always has an eye for goal, if we feed him with the ball we know he’ll put it away.”
The midfielder also commemorated Zibaka for his thrilling display in front of goal, highlighting how much of a pleasure it is to play behind the frontman.
“In training we’ve been working hard throughout the squad and that’s been shown today, we have a good set of lads. We’re all doing well, we had a bit of a setback in the Youth Cup but we’ve reacted well with a good performance today and hopefully there’s more to come.”
He said: “I thought it was a good performance. We controlled most of the game and having lads coming on from the bench to score is great.
Captain Ryan Croasdale echoed Alexander’s views on the side’s performance.
“We’ve shown that we can play really good football and play well defensively, we just need to do it on a consistent basis. I’ve seen only one game where I think we didn’t do it – against Burnley. Taking that aside, we’ve competed consistently well over the last five or six weeks while playing to a good level. Now we’ve just got to carry that on because there’s lots of games to play and we want to see performances similar to today.”
Asked if Alexander was looking for similar performances in the future, the U18s manager said he’s looking for his team to maintain their consistency to churn out displays like they did against Stanley.
“We’re trying to get a competitive squad together to help players evolve into professionals, we don’t want people being comfortable in their positions, we want them to be challenged constantly.
“We asked the players the question of whether they could perform for 90 minutes in the same way that they did last week for 60 minutes against Gateshead. They did today and that’s why they ran out good winners.
He said: “It (the win) was very pleasing. We competed in the right manner and we got the basics right. I’m disappointed that we conceded a goal after only allowing minimal chances against us but that’s a minor blip today on a thorough and professional performance.
Following the convincing victory, Youth boss Graham Alexander was delighted, with the conceded goal the only slight disappointment.
A ball curled into towards the far post was headed back across the face of goal by Ben Davies allowing the striker to nod in from point blank range into the inviting net.
Four minutes later, substitute Ryan made an instant impact when he compounded Stanley’s misery with a sixth goal for North End.
The youngster immediately assumed the set-piece duty before coolly slotting the ball into the bottom-right corner, sending Wolland the wrong way.
With 15 minutes remaining, Zibaka was gifted the chance to get his third of the game after Brownhill was brought down by Wolland in the area, leaving the referee with little choice but to award a penalty.
The lively Livesey was involved yet again as he came in from the right flank and avoided the challenge of Proctor before hitting a powerful cross that Brownhill volleyed in from inside the 6-yard box.
After the Lilywhites had gone into half-time fully deserving their lead, they didn’t allow the break to slow their momentum as they found a fourth just before the hour mark.
A cross whipped in towards Tyler Forbes was controlled by the winger before he immediately volleyed the ball into the danger area. Livesey anticipated the pass first as he leapt down to head in from two yards out.
Preston managed to reassert themselves as the dominant force in the match as they extended their lead to two goals again minutes before half-time.
Proctor attempted a 25-yard strike but slipped in the process – unfortunately for the Lilywhites this aided his shot as it soared over Steven James and crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
The match continued to be an entertaining encounter as Stanley halved Preston’s lead ten minutes later.
The energetic Livesey drilled a dangerous ball into the box that Brownhill scuffed into the path of Zibaka, the frontman reacted well to prod the ball underneath Wolland and into the back of the net.
The Lilywhites were rewarded for their relentless pressure as Zibaka doubled his tally in the 24th minute.
North End didn’t sit back after their opener as they continued to push for more.
A ball played from midfield by captain Ryan Croasdale found Zibaka in behind the opposition defence after a fortunate slip from Luke Greaves. The young striker maintained his composure as he side-footed into the bottom corner to break the deadlock.
It took just five minutes after the first chance for the Lilywhites to find the net.
Zibaka burst down the left flank before laying the ball across to Livesey who was in acres of space. Just as the winger looked set to tuck the ball into a gaping net from close range, Stanley goalkeeper Kieran Wolland threw himself in the way of the effort.
North End were unlucky not to win by a larger margin after seeing the first clear opportunity of the encounter saved in the tenth minute.
A fortuitous goal from Ben Proctor for Stanley didn’t alter the complexion of the game as the visitors constantly found themselves being outclassed in all areas of the pitch.
A hat-trick from Brandon Zibaka along with goals from Sam Livesey, Josh Brownhill and Jack Ryan sealed all three points for the home side in what was a highly impressive team performance.