Notts County’s development squad was dealt a difficult test on Tuesday afternoon, which taught them a number of valuable lessons.
With numerous regular players unavailable for selection, a young side faced a Wolverhampton Wanderers XI that included senior professionals such as Bakary Sako and Jake Cassidy.
Wolves made their experience count with a 4-1 win but development squad coach Steve Hodge believes it is important for his team to face these kinds of tough challenges if his players are to realise what it takes to the step up to first team football.
He told the official site: "On paper their team was excellent as we knew it would be tough, because they would have given our first team a good game.
"Our players will learn a lot from that experience and this is why these games are being played.
"We went to Crewe and we had a tough time there, but we walk away, look at the video and bit by bit try to make our players better.
"We take the hits on the chin and learn from it and these players are in an environment where they've got to learn quickly.”
He added: "We learnt that physicality is a big part of football and our younger players at times found their physical strength a problem.
"But, they did dig in and we could've easily have got beaten by more than we did.
"From my point of view I'm happy with that but I want us to improve with the ball.
"We need to be more dynamic in the final third and make better runs as a front three or front two.
"It was good environment against good players and we walk away having got beaten, but as a group we should be more enhanced from what we've learnt.”
Three youth team players – Brad McGowan, Kieran Geldenhuys and Tyler Guy – made up the back four, with two more – Elliott Hodge and Jack Golding – introduced as second half substitutes.
Hodge was impressed with how the Under-18s stepped up against a strong Wolves side and has urged them to learn from the experience.
"I thought they put a shift in or, as I say, put in a full 90,” he continued.
"For 17-year-olds against players of that ilk, you can't buy that experience.
"They'll now realise what they have to do - never mind the Wolves or our first team - to get into my squad and kick on from there.
"They've got to improve again and again and again - it's an every day constant.
"It's every day doing their weights, watching the game and I tell them they've got to immerse themselves in the game.
"They've got to watch it, listen and learn about it, and it's the only way really.
"The majority of normal players have to work hard at their game and learn it along the way.”
Look out for match highlights on Magpie Player soon.