Sunderland under-23 manager Elliott Dickman has backed youngster Dan Neil to 'keep developing' after a fine debut season for the young Black Cats.
Dickman praised the Sunderland youngster and his youthful side after they ended their home campaign on a positive note - despite leaving it late to seal a draw against Fulham.
The Black Cats looked set to be heading for a 15th league defeat of a tough campaign until Lee Connelly struck in the final minute of normal time.
Connelly’s strike came after Fulham skipper Jerome Opoku had headed the visitors into a first half lead.
It was no less than the Cottagers deserved after a dominant first-half.
Indeed the only blot on their fine start was a red card to ‘keeper Magnus Norman on the stroke of half-time as he handled outside the area.
And Sunderland failed ti their numerical advantage count until the dying moments - when Connelly drilled home at the back post.
A draw left Dickman delighted, with the Sunderland youth boss believing the result was just rewards after a testing campaign.
“I’m delighted for them that they got a result because it’s been a tough season in terms of our league position,” he said.
“But I’ve seen them grow, learn and mature into young men and there’s been good improvement in some of the players.
“It’s nice to finish a home game with a positive result.”
It was once again a young Sunderland that took to the field at Eppleton CW - but Dickman was left enthused by the performance of Dan Neil - who he has challenged to keep on improving next season after a stellar debut season.
“Once you get to January and onwards, I think most teams are quite young in the under-23s,” he admitted.
“But you look at someone like Dan Neil, who has just left school last July.
“To come in and have his first full season with the under-23s is fantastic for his development and learning.
"The challenge for him next season is he’s got to kick on and use the experiences from this season to keep improving and keep developing.”