Phil Parkinson reserved special praise for academy graduate Brandon Taylor following Sunderland’s Emirates FA Cup exit at Gillingham on Tuesday.
Taylor completed the full game in the heart of the Black Cats’ defence as Brandon Hanlan’s extra-time winner was the only thing that separated the two teams after 120 minutes of football.
The 20-year-old was handed his first senior appearance (outside of the Leasing.com Trophy) after Parkinson was without 10 first-team figures, including Jordan Willis and Joel Lynch.
Fellow youngsters Jack Bainbridge and Lee Connelly featured off the bench, while Anthony Patterson, Bali Mumba and Ruben Sammut were also included among the substitutes.
“I thought Brandon was excellent,” Parkinson told safc.com.
“He was a big bonus for us tonight because I thought he looked very accomplished.
“Jack came on and it’s always difficult when you come on in that type of game.
“It was a complete scrap out there and it was about concentration levels and one moment of quality,” he continued.
“It was a moment that cost us on the night so it’s very disappointing to go out of the cup, but in terms of where we were last Tuesday to where we are tonight – with a very depleted squad – you have to give the players credit for sticking at it and we will get better.”