Lee Johnson delivers this upbeat verdict on Sunderland win and hails 'top drawer' Dan Neil
Lee Johnson said Sunderland's Papa John's Trophy win showed the club's new philosophy is taking root throughout the club.
A youthful side featuring four debutants produced an excellent 2-1 win, with captain Dan Neil scoring an outstanding early goal.
Stephen Wearne scored just minutes after his introduction in the second half to extend the lead, and though Lewis Montsma reduced the deficit late on Johnson's side were more than worthy winners.
They had faced an experienced Lincoln XI and Johnson was thrilled with their response.
Unsurprisingly, he marked the superb Neil out for praise.
"I was really happy," Johnson said.
"The big-picture thing for me is how well the young players did out there.
"The attitude from the seniors was good, which was important, but which enabled the youngsters to really come through.
"What I liked was the way we played and the philosophy we played with.
"It shows people are doing their jobs and the coaching is really good in the academy.
"I thought Dan Neil was top, top drawer. It's an art form the way he moves around the pitch and I'm so happy to be working with him and to be able to continue watching his development.
"It's a huge trip for the club as far as I'm concerned," he added.
"It proves to me that the work behind the scenes is going really well.
"We talk a lot about wanting to be sustainable and to do that you've got to bring players through. At the moment we are doing that in abundance.
"Particularly given the fact that Lincoln picked a strong side, it was not like for like in terms of league performances, I'm really happy."
Johnson also had a special mention for the travelling support, with 659 supporters making the trip just days after the long journey to Portsmouth.
He said they had played their part in a special night for a number of young players.
"I'm really grateful for the travelling fans as well because they made an atmosphere for our lads," he said,
"It would have been disappointing if we hadn't had many but to be able to see and hear them so strongly was really nice."
Johnson also praised Ollie Younger for an excellent showing at the heart of defence.
"Ollie's defending was top class, really aggressive," he said.
"I was really pleased with the debutants.
"Wearney is still buzzing in there to get the goal. You cna see Harrison [Sohna] still has a bit of physical maturation to do but he's very smooth on the ball, and you walways want a left-footer in there.
"He had two good players around him in Alex Pritchard, who was excellent, and Dan.
"Will worked extremely hard because he had a thankless task in the first half, where we were dominant in the middle third but didn't get enough bodies close to him. Second half we got closer and you could see he benefited.
"Kenton did well so I think all the guys, younger and senior, can go home with a sense of pride."