By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
When Newcastle's Europa League campaign got underway in Atromitos back in August, James Tavernier and Romain Amalfitano figured but as United earned a round of 16 draw at Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday night, the pair had to be content with watching on television.
Both stayed back on Tyneside and instead played in Friday's Barclays Under-21 Premier League fixture against Manchester City, but Reserve Team Manager Willie Donachie was impressed with the way they approached the game.
He admitted it would have been easy for them to sulk about turning out at a bleak Whitley Park in a 1-1 second-string draw rather than the magnificent Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
But Donachie said: "It didn't seem like that. Romain's attitude was superb. He showed great enthusiasm, some great touches, some great skill, and Tav got forward and put some great balls in.
"Considering we had seven or eight Academy level players it was a great performance. More important than winning or drawing is the development of those players and it was a great experience for them.
"I thought they did fantastically well. First half, they were a bit edgy and nervous because I think they were worried about reputations but in the second half when they were more positive, played more simply, moved and took responsibility, I thought they were really, really good.
"Added to them we have Tav who showed a lot of leadership qualities and Romain who I thought was outstanding."
Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve Stone and Andy Woodman were all in the crowd to see for themselves, while they will also have taken note of the displays of younger players like Jonathyn Quinn, Rolando Aarons and Jonathan Mitchell, who have all been introduced into the under-21 side in recent weeks.
"That's how it happens - you get your chance when you least expect it and if you put the work in beforehand and you're prepared properly, you'll take your chance," Donachie said.
"But if you don't put the work in and you get your chance, you fail. So I'm really pleased for them. They're getting a great opportunity to experience a high standard against quality players and that's the only way you learn. It's not by me or Peter telling them things - we encourage them and then they learn by their experience and that's just invaluable.
"It's just patience with them. They've all got to keep working hard."
Newcastle took the lead through a stunning first second-string goal from Steven Logan before Marcos Lopes equalised with a late penalty and Donachie was pleased to see hard-working midfielder Logan get off the mark.
"I was delighted for him," he said. "It'll give him a big boost.
"But again, he's just a young guy with a lot of work to do and a long way to go.
"If he keeps working, who knows? That's the beauty of the game, the beauty of working and showing real character. Anything's possible."