Ethan Walker praised the youth team’s resilience as they came from behind to beat Oldham Athletic 6-2 in the Lancashire FA Professional Youth Cup semi-final.
The young Lilywhites trailed 2-0 late in the first-half before both Tyrhys Dolan and Walker himself struck braces, with Adam O’Reilly and Jack Baxter also getting in on the goalscoring act.
Walker scored the team’s third to put North End into the lead, before completing the scoring late on, and he was delighted with how the game went.
“It was all to do with the lads and the resilience that came through was unbelievable,” the U16 winger told PNE.com. “We were 2-0 down and I think heads did drop slightly, but we still had the players in the team to do well and obviously get the result.
“I think because it’s a semi-final, everyone is up for it and even though we conceded two goals, we tried to think as if the game was still 0-0. We gave it our all and that’s all we could have done.
“It shows what we can do. We’ve got the right players in the team, crazy, magical players who can do what everyone wants to see. Today we’ve come together and showed everyone what we can do.
“If we can carry on doing what we’ve done today, we can finish on a high and the two games we have left can top off the season. We’ve got a good result today and we need to keep it on a high.”
Walker, who played as the team’s lone striker, combined particularly well in the game with a fellow U16 attacker, Tyrhys Dolan, with the pair among the next crop of scholars set to join the youth team squad on a full-time basis over the summer.
The Preston-born attacker said there is a good understanding between the pair and hopes the whole team can keep up their performance levels, with the final league game of the season against Shrewsbury Town on Saturday and the final of this competition, against Wigan Athletic, still to come.
“Tyrhys and I get along really well and we like to link up play together and that showed today. Hopefully we can do that more but when that happens, it works for us and we can get ahead in the game.
“It’s [playing as a striker] an unselfish role and you have to make space for players like Tyrhys, Adam [O’Reilly] and Jez [Jerome Jolly]. It’s a lot different to playing as a winger where you get the ball out wide for one versus ones, but I got two goals today and we got a great result, so I can’t complain.
“I’m pleased because in recent weeks of playing, I’ve not always had the chances to go and show people what I can do and today, chances came to me on a plate and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
“We’ve got confidence now to go into the next game and then into the final. Hopefully, if we can perform like that again, we will have a good chance against Wigan.”
It was an action-packed day for the future scholar who finished sitting a GCSE French exam just 90 minutes before the game began.
“It’s focusing on doing two different things. Sitting my GCSE this morning was totally different to going into a game, but playing football takes my mind off things as well so that’s why I did well today.
“I take things as they come. When you are playing football, everything else gets taken off your mind and you just focus on the game.”