Mikey O’Neill was unsurprisingly “very happy” after netting a hat-trick in Tuesday’s Central League victory over Walsall.
The second-year scholar was part of a young Preston North End side which beat the Saddlers convincingly, with a 5-0 scoreline, and O’Neill had a big role in that victory, scoring three goals in a 14-minute spell in the first half.
Speaking to PNE.Com after the game, Mikey said: “I was very happy to get three goals and as a team we scored five so it was a very good game today and nice to get the win.
“I said recently that I wanted to score more goals and since then I’ve been in decent goalscoring form, so today was very good for that!
“In a reserve game it’s important that we win. Everything gets fed back to the first team manager so it’s important that we show what we can do.”
It’s been a while since Mikey and his team-mates in the U19s have managed to play, given the break over the Christmas period and the weekend’s postponed fixture against Salford City.
They certainly didn’t look like they’d been away from the pitch, though, with Teddy Mfuni and Joe Rodwell-Grant’s second-half strikes, following Mikey’s hat-trick, sealing an emphatic victory.
Mikey added: “I think the last time I played was mid-December so it was good to get back out there and get a bit in the legs because we’ve got the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday, so it was good to start what will hopefully be a positive year.”
That Youth Cup fixture takes place on Tuesday 18th January, as Mikey and his team-mates head to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday, looking for a place in the fifth round.
Unfortunately, the game will now clash with the first team’s fixture against Sheffield United at Deepdale so they will not receive as much support as they were initially set to, but they still head there with the same ambition of bringing home the win.
Mikey said: “We’ve been speaking about it and it’s very disappointing because obviously it’s going to have an impact on the fans coming with no transport now, but the main thing is we go there and win.
“It’s a big week and we want to come out of it as best as we can. We want to win on Saturday in the league too because we’re doing well and still have a chance of winning it.
“We want to win as many games as we can, play as well as we can in every game, whether it be in the cup or the league.”
Academy manager Nick Harrison also spoke to PNE.Com following the game, and he was delighted with the performance which Mikey put in, saying he deserves all the headlines.
He said: “It’s the hardest thing to do on the pitch, to put the ball in the back of the net, and I actually thought he took all three goals really well.
“They were team goals. We passed the ball really well to get the ball into him, some unselfish play to create the chances, but I think that’s Mikey’s qualities.
“To score three goals in the first half shows it was a good individual performance.”
It wasn’t just Mikey who shone, though, as the whole team impressed on the day, bettering Walsall in every area of the pitch.
“I thought on the ball and off the ball the lads were outstanding to be honest,” added Nick.
“They played it in the right way. We played positive, got the ball forward, and sometimes we had to go a bit longer, but then we also had some really good passages of play where we passed the ball over shorter distances.
“We thoroughly deserved to score the goals we did, but we probably could have scored another five to be honest.
“That comes with how hard the boys worked off the ball, pressing from the front and I thought the three at the back dealt with anything that came in behind, so I’m really pleased with the performance and obviously the result.”