Ethan Walker was pleased to return to the youth team fold and help the young Lilywhites reach the FA Youth Cup fifth round by scoring both goals in the 2-0 win over Oxford United at Deepdale.
The second year scholar was recently recalled from a loan spell at Altrincham, allowing him to return to the starting line-up for this game and he wasted no time in making an impact, scoring from the penalty spot after 12 minutes and doubling his and the team’s tally early in the second half to make sure of the win.
The 17-year-old missed the third round win against Bristol City last month and Ethan told iFollow PNE that he was pleased to be back involved in the FA Youth Cup this evening, helping his team-mates to set up a fifth round tie away to Blackburn Rovers in the process.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Ethan said. “I thought that all the players were excellent, they knew their roles and the tactics for today’s game and they put it into today.
“All the practice we’ve done in training has finally worked out. It didn’t help having the game cancelled last week but we’ve got on with it and been patient and we’ve shown them what we can do.
“I fully enjoyed coming back, spending time with the lads and scoring two goals and getting us through to the next round.”
Ethan’s spell at Altrincham ended prematurely but the youngster said he learned from the experience nonetheless.
“It’s [the loan spell] taught me how fast the game is,” he added. “The intensity is massive compared to youth team football and it’s helped me improve my fitness.
“I feel fitter coming back down with the youth team – I’m not saying the tempo’s slow, the intensity’s slow – but I’ve found it a lot easier coming back and I’ve learnt things that I wouldn’t have learnt if I stayed here.
“I fully enjoyed my time at Altrincham, I’ve learnt a lot even just in training, I’ve took it into today’s game and showed that I have improved.”
The forward explained that the team were not fully satisified with their first half’s work, feeling they might have added to their 1-0 advantage, that feeling soon relieved as Walker doubled the lead ten minutes into the second half.
“The lads dug deep in both sides. We were frustrated the first half because we should have took the chances, we should have took shots when we needed to but we didn’t. second half, we went in and we did the defensive side of the game – the dirty work – and then when we did get forward we punished them and we made good decisions in the final third.
“Defensively, the defenders were excellent, Joe Nolan and Brian were excellent in the centre midfield role and I can’t fault everybody – I thought everybody dug deep and played their part in today’s game.
“They were defensively quite compact, so it was hard to get into gaps and work the ball in between the two centre halves. I think the ball went out to Lewis Coulton, he’s come back in and I’ve seen the gap in between the centre halves, I’ve made the run and he’s found me and it just took a little touch off me and it’s bounced in.
“It was a great cross but it’s just patience; we were patient with the ball and just playing it outside the box and then a gap opened and we’ve punished them. It’s a great effort from all the lads.”
There is a Lancashire derby in store for the next round with Blackburn Rovers having beaten Charlton Athletic in their fourth round tie on the same night and the young Lilywhites will head to Ewood Park in the fifth round – a prospect which Ethan admitted is an exciting one.
“We’re looking forward to it, we were focused on today’s game and we didn’t think about getting into the next round, we just focused on today’s game.
“All the work we’ve put in behind closed doors paid off today and now we can focus on the Blackburn game at Ewood Park.
“We’ll get back training, we’re in tomorrow and we’ll start from there. Just get back to training, listen to the coaches and we’ll hopefully beat Blackburn in the next round.”
Watch more from Ethan on iFollow PNE.