Walsall Assistant and Development Coach Brian Dutton praised youngsters Sam Perry and Joe Willis for their performances during their debuts against Portsmouth in the Leasing.Com Trophy on Tuesday night.
The Saddlers fell to a 2-1 defeat against the League One side at the Banks’s Stadium despite a spirited performance.
Perry played 90 minutes while Willis featured for just under 20 minutes and Dutton was delighted with the pair.
“It was an old head on young shoulders on there, Sam Perry was excellent,” said Dutton.
“I’ve worked with him a few times for the reserves this season and we were just wondering whether or not he could continue the good form that he’s shown for the 18s and reserves this season in front of a crowd and he thrived in it which was great to see so credit to him, his family and all the coaches who have coached him and brought him along this season.
“Joe Willis made his debut as well and he was bright when he came on.
“You almost have to dip your toe in with the youngsters and see where they’re at in terms of their development and see if they’re mentally ready to play first team football and both of the lads were a credit to themselves and their families.
“They’re still developing so it’s up to them where they go from here. They can rest on their laurels and think they’ve almost made it and all of a sudden they’ll fall by the wayside, or they can dip their toe and think ‘yes I quite like this, I’m going to crack on with this,’ and that’s what we want from them.
“We don’t want them to get here and be arrogant with it, we want them to get here and realise that they are good enough and that they can make the step.”
The Saddlers bowed out of the Leasing.com Trophy after last night’s defeat in the Last 16.
Dutton was pleased with Walsall’s fighting spirit and the way they competed against opposition from a higher division.
“We’re proud,” he declared. “That performance, chalk and cheese from the games at the beginning of the season in terms of digging in and trying to get the win and giving fans something to cheer about.
“I thought we pushed Portsmouth all the way, even after going 2-0 down the lads didn’t lose belief, they kept believing and it just shows what a positive moment they’re in to carry on going against a top team like Portsmouth, full credit.”
Attention now returns to the league as Darrell Clarke’s men travel to Cheltenham Town on Saturday.
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