By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
A disappointed Dave Watson was buoyed by the return to action of two of his injured youngsters as his side lost to local rivals Sunderland on Saturday.
United's Under-18s Coach saw his side slip to a 4-2 defeat at the Academy of Light in the first Tyne-Wear derby of the season, despite a strong second half showing.
But the former England defender was pleased to see full-back Macauley Booth play 90 minutes in his first appearance of the campaign while Macaulay Gillesphey scored after coming on as a substitute having spent most of the summer on the treatment table.
Jamie Sterry is another player to have recently recovered from a long-term setback and Watson was delighted to see all three out on the pitch against the Black Cats.
"We've had injuries and lads out for long periods of time," he told nufc.co.uk. "For Macaulay to come back after being out for as long as he has, it was great just to see him playing again and to actually chip in with a goal was fantastic for him.
"And the squad will be a little bit bigger once we get one or two injured lads back."
Gillesphey's goal set up an exciting climax to the match as it made the score 3-2 to the hosts - but Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron scored seconds later having slotted home from the penalty spot in the first half less than a minute after Alex Gilliead had made it 2-1.
"We got back into the game on a couple of occasions and then straight after, Sunderland got another goal to take them ahead which is quite disappointing," Watson admitted.
"I felt if we could have hung on for a little bit, we were really chasing to get back in the game in the second half.
"We started the game a little bit slow and we gave a couple of daft goals away, which always makes it hard for yourself. But the reaction from the lads in the second half was really good; they came out to try and win the game and by pushing forward Sunderland got the fourth goal.
"But overall, for a young team the effort they're putting in and the desire they're showing is great. We just need to brush up on lots of little bits and pieces."
Esteban Cardona Lopez was the only outfield player who was not a first-year scholar or schoolboy, and Watson believes his squad is learning all the time.
"We've lost three now and won one, so it does take a bit of confidence out of the lads but we've got to get the point over to them that it is all about them coming on week in, week out and improving as individuals - and they are doing that," he insisted.
"They're giving their all, they're trying to do the things we're telling them and over a period of time they will become an awful lot better."
And Watson also praised Gilliead after the England under-16 international's first goal of the campaign. The forward's pace and persistence mean he often creates opportunities for himself and his coach said: "I was delighted for him.
"He's got a great work ethic to his game and he's really came on for us in his technique side, and it was goals that he needs.
"He gets lots of chances and he hasn't actually finished a lot of them so today has hopefully given him a lot of confidence for the next games."