By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Dave Watson hailed the maturity of his young players after leading Newcastle United under-18s to the top of the Barclays Under-18 Premier League Tier Two table with a 3-0 win over Blackburn.
With the under-21s in friendly action at Cambridge, Watson was without the likes of Rolando Aarons, Alex Gilliead, Jamie Sterry, Lee Desmond and Tom Heardman but goals from Greg Olley, Callum Roberts and Liam Smith gave the Magpies three points at Little Benton.
The result was all the more remarkable given the scoreline when the two sides met in Lancashire last month - Rovers running out 4-1 winners - but Watson, whose side beat Middlesbrough 1-0 on Saturday, is becoming accustomed to such impressive responses from his talented teenagers.
"In last week's game against Middlesbrough we did the same - they beat us 4-0 up here and we got a great reaction off the lads," he told nufc.co.uk.
"We knew we had a good hiding up there at Blackburn and we had six under-16s playing today which is fantastic. Cal Roberts up front was absolutely unbelievable today, so was young Adam Armstrong and Freddie Woodman never had an awful lot to do but he controlled the game for us at the back and delayed things when he needed to.
"And they showed a really good maturity for their age today so I'm really pleased, and that puts the lads top of the league today.
"We got a few good hidings early on in the season but the lads have learnt from that and in recent weeks they've shown a really good team spirit and put in good performances in the games."
The conditions played a part, with United using a strong wind to their advantage in the first half as they led 2-0 before adding a third in the second period.
Watson said: "In the first half we took full use of the wind and in the second half we got behind the ball and we were difficult to play through. And that's two clean sheets now on the trot so we're well pleased with that."
Roberts claimed a goal and two assists, having returned from injury recently, while midfielder Smith was making his first appearance after a long spell on the treatment table with a back probem.
"Cal is back and he seems to be firing on all cylinders," Watson said. "The more games he can get between now and the end of the season the better. There's not many left for the under-18s but he'll start the season off next year with his confidence sky high.
"And it's great to see Smithy back and you saw in 45 minutes what quality he's got for the team. Apart from his goal, his composure on the ball and his vision - he's a bit loss that we've had this season.
"So it was great to see him get 45 minutes and hopefully he'll get a full game in the next one."