Duncan Watmore knows he will have to be patient over a return to league action with Sunderland given the impressive form of Jack Ross' side.
Sunderland haven't lost a game in League One since the middle of September when they lost to Burton Albion.
Since then, the Black Cats have gone 16 games unbeaten in all competitions, the latest victory coming in the Checkatrade Trophy as Sunderland safely made it into the last 16.
Watmore made his first team return following 13-months out with a second ACL knee injury, the striker playing 67 minutes against the League Two side.
He was afforded a standing ovation when he was subbed midway through the second half and the 24-year-old was grateful for the reception he received from supporters.
Jack Ross heaped praise on Watmore afterwards and hinted a return to the first team squad in the league won't be too far away, with Watmore adding more competition to the forward options.
"I am still going to have to be patient in terms of when the first team games step up into the league, there is a higher intensity, and the lads have been doing brilliantly," said Watmore, who played an U23 game before making his first team return.
"I will have to wait for my time, it is healthy competition and it is great to see the lads doing well.
"In that respect, I will start feeling it when I’m properly contributing in the league and live up to that intensity.
"This is another step in the right direction and I feel really good."
Sunderland safely made it through to the last 16 thanks to a Dan Jones own goal and Jerome Sinclair's second half penalty and Watmore enjoyed being back under the lights at the Stadium of Light.
It was Watmore’s first Sunderland first team game for over a year, the 24-year-old suffered his second ACL injury in a 2-2 draw with Millwall on November 18, 2017.
Watmore said: “It felt great to be back out there, it is almost 13-months since I last played out there. It has been tough times.
“You do all the rehab work for moments like that, I really enjoyed it, the fans were great with me and it was just great to be out there. I am very grateful.
“It was really nice [to get a standing ovation], the fans have been fantastic with me for the past two years. There was nothing I could do about either injury, I did everything possible to get fit, I just had bad luck twice, these things happen.
“All the lads at Sunderland, the sports scientists and physios have been great with me, they have put in so much work with me and the coaches have been so patient. I feel so ready.
“Everything is as good as it can be, I feel ready and really enjoying playing football again.”
Watmore went close to scoring his first goal on his return, his shot was saved and then deflected in off Jones for the opener, while County keeper Ross Fitzsimons twice saved from the returning forward.
Watmore told the club website: "You have to be patient, I did everything I could to score, the keeper made a couple of decent saves and these things happen. I am looking forward to scoring soon."