“I won’t go on mazy runs!”: Jayden Stockley ready to put his head where it hurts in Preston’s play-off bid

Jayden Stockley celebrates at the final whistle at the Riverside Stadium
Jayden Stockley celebrates at the final whistle at the Riverside Stadium
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Jayden Stockley is under no illusions about where he fits into Preston North End’s bid to reach the Championship play-off places.

The Exeter City front man has settled in quickly at Deepdale, his winner at Middlesbrough on Wednesday night his second goal since his January move from League Two.

Stockley heads home to complete Preston's turnaround

Stockley heads home to complete Preston's turnaround

Seen as the targetman PNE have needed since Jordan Hugill’s departure, Stockley’s physicality was on show in the remarkable turnaround at the Riverside Stadium.

The 25-year-old knows that is where he can make a difference for Alex Neil’s men, who will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 Championship games against Birmingham City on Saturday.

“I’ve obviously got different attributes to the other forward players in this team,” said Stockley.

“There’s some incredible talent and when I do get my chance it’s about trying to play my game and not trying to do things I’m not so good at.

Stockley has settled in quickly since his January move from Exeter

Stockley has settled in quickly since his January move from Exeter

“You’re not going to see me get the ball on the halfway line and go on mazy runs.

“I’m here to do a job and I know I still need to get better at it.

“I need to learn the tricks of the trade, put myself about, use my size and try and contribute to the team in that way.

“There are going to be times this season when the guys need me to do a job up there.

The striker in the thick of the action against Nottingham Forest

The striker in the thick of the action against Nottingham Forest

“I’m trying to learn every day and having made the jump up, hopefully I can do it pretty quickly.”

It was with his head that Stockley made his decisive intervention on Teesside.

Having replaced fellow goalscorer Paul Gallagher with 15 minutes to go, the frontman rose to meet Andrew Hughes’ deflected shot and beat Darren Randolph, sparking wild celebrations in the away end in the 81st minute.

“I was half thinking, ‘I’m going to have to take a hit from the keeper here’ but I just knew it was my ball, it’s what I’m here to do,” said Stockley.

“I was happy to risk breaking my nose again for that one. I stayed onside and gambled for the rebound.

“I know Hughesy has got a clean strike so I just wanted to be in there if the ball broke and luckily for me the ball had my name on it when it went up.

“It was an unbelievable feeling.

“Just to contribute to this amazing run we’re on was brilliant.

“Coming into the changing room at the end is a feeling I won’t forget.”

Having dramatically put his side in front, Stockley was then called into action at the other end, helping the North End backline see out a sixth straight away victory that moved them to within two points of the play-offs.

Despite being needed at the sharp end, the former Bournemouth man insists he does not mind mucking in when required.

“It was similar at Blackburn last Saturday,” he said.

“There comes a time when so many balls are going into the box that I’m needed to help out.

“It does help when someone of my size can go back there – it’s something you have to do from time to time.

“I actually do enjoy both sides of it.

“Obviously you want to be up the pitch and the gaffer wants me there but at the time on Wednesday night, it just seemed appropriate for me to hang back there until the pressure was relieved.

“Hearing that final whistle was brilliant, especially after we scored we coped really well with balls coming into the box.

“We didn’t look flustered at all and it was a really professional job in the second half.”

Having been thrown straight in with four straight starts on his arrival from Exeter, Stockley has had to settle for appearances off the bench of late.

His important cameo at the Riverside Stadium was his fifth as a substitute, Sean Maguire having been preferred through the middle of late.

“It’s been great so far,” said Stockley.

“The first four games unbeaten went really well and since then I’ve almost had a chance to take a step back and learn from people and watch other players.

“It’s been fantastic seeing Sean when he’s played.

“He’s such a livewire and playing with him on Wednesday night again you’re just reminded that he gets on to anything.

“Lukas Nmecha has done really well also.

“There’s so much talent here that I have had to take my appearances when they’ve come and try and get some momentum.

“It paid off on Wednesday night.

“I’ve just got to try and stay as professional as possible. I knew my chance would come again soon.”

Despite this being his first season in the Championship, the striker insists he is far from content sampling the atmosphere from the sidelines.

“It’s been nice to settle in how I have but I want to play every game,” Stockley said.

“It’s not as if I’m happy to be on the bench – no one should be.

“It’s a good feeling when the team’s winning and there’s a good buzz, though.

“I’m more than happy for us to be picking up the points and to be doing my bit.

“It is a team game and I’m well aware that there’s so much quality in this side and my qualities will be needed at some point.

“It’s been a privilege watching some of the performances and if I can contribute in any way that’s great.”

PNE will look to continue their upturn in fortunes when Birmingham come to town this weekend.

Neil’s side have gone from rank outsiders a few weeks ago to genuine play-off contenders ahead of Saturday’s game at Deepdale.

With nine games to go things are really starting to get serious.

“No- ne’s getting carried away with themselves,” said Stockley.

“Everyone just wants to continue the buzz and continue the good feeling around the place.

“Wednesday night was the first time we’d gone behind since Swansea in January.

“That was a good test for us, getting a setback in a game and then going on from there.”