Sunderland coach Elliott Dickman praised the performance of Sam Brotherton as the Under-23s beat Derby County yesterday.
An inexperienced Black Cats side came up against a Rams side boasting two full internationals - Scotland star Ikechi Anya and former Sunderland and England striker Darren Bent - but still won 3-1.
And it was an international of their own, New Zealand defender Brotherton, who came in for special praise from Dickman.
He said: “I think the lads have done really well today because Sam Brotherton hasn’t played a lot of football – he was on the opposite side of the world over Christmas seeing his family – but he came in and played 90 minutes which is a testament to the type of professional he is."
Brotherton has yet to make a first-team appearance for Sunderland since joining in last January's transfer window, but has seven international caps to his name.
His first-team chances will be further restricted by the arrival of Chelsea defender Jake Clarke-Salter on loan, but the 21-year-old Kiwi is still under contract until the summer of 2019 as Sunderland hope he can develop.
Elliot Embleton also impressed Dickman, less than 24 hours after appearing from the first-team bench in the FA Cup defeat against Middlesbrough.
Dickman added: “Young Daniel Wright got both goals and he’s another one that hasn’t been in the side a lot over the season, and I thought Elliot Embleton was very good today, as were Tom Beadling and Brandon Taylor, but it was a real team effort.
“They fielded three very experienced players – two senior internationals – but that’s good for our lads to come across and be tested against, and maybe it’s lifted us a little bit and we’ve thought ‘right, let’s show them’.
“I can’t praise the side enough because after 10 minutes I thought they [Derby] were good, but after that I thought we were comfortable and played really, really well.”