Alex Dyer was proud of his young players' efforts following West Ham United's 2-0 Barclays Premier Reserve League South defeat by runaway leaders Aston Villa.
With the first team in Premier League action against West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, Dyer named a youthful side including no fewer than nine teenagers against an in-form Villa lineup featuring former Hammers striker Marlon Harewood and Togo World Cup star Moustapha Salifou.
Defenders Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson and Matt Fry, midfielders Danny Kearns, Georg Grasser, Oliver Lee and Anthony Edgar and striker Balint Bajner all started at Bishop's Stortford, while fellow Academy students Ahmed Abdulla, Cristian Montano and Sergio Sanchez were introduced from the substitutes' bench.
Hungary Under-21 goalkeeper Peter Kurucz, on loan from Ujpest FC until the end of the season, was handed his competitive debut, while towering central defender Bondz 'Gala was again entrusted with the captain's armband.
A goal in each half from Austrians Andreas Weimann and Dominik Hofbauer proved to be the difference between the two sides, but coach Dyer was far from disappointed with his youngsters' collective performance against a Villa team that are now eight points clear at the top of the standings.
"We definitely were not disgraced. The boys came out and worked hard, we had to change the formation a little bit and they adapted well to playing with three at the back. We let in a sloppy goal just before half-time but, apart from that, they boys can take a lot of credit from their performance.
"I put an extra man back there and they worked well together. We actually played that same formation at Villa away [in the reverse fixture] and it worked well there again. It was still good. The lads came out after half-time and dug in and, to be fair, in the second half we had a good go at it.
"They scored another goal at the end but you are going to get that when you play with a lot of kids. Players switch-off or have a lapse here and there but, overall, it was a good performance from the boys."
Dyer was pleased with the application and attitude shown by all of his players, with Under-18 midfielders Lee and Grasser earning praise for their approach to what was a stern test that will undoubtedly aid their long-term development.
"They did well. Ollie played in a wing-back position and got up and down and defended well. He also got forward and tried to deliver some passes to the strikers Georg just sat in there in front of the defence and tried to get it down and play. It was hard for a lot of the lads because they've had a lot of games lately what with doubling up with the reserves and the youth team. It's done them no harm whatsoever."
Dyer was also pleased with the leadership qualities shown by 'Gala. The 19-year-old returned from a loan spell at League One MK Dons to skipper the reserves to an impressive victory at Arsenal a week ago, and the coach was again impressed with his captain's inspirational qualities.
"I see that hopefully he can go on and play first-team football, hopefully with West Ham but, if not, certainly at a good level of the game. He works hard in training and trains with the first team all the time now and you can see that he's developing. He's comfortable on the ball and he can pass it. You can see that he encourages others to do the best around him and that's why I made him captain."
With four games left, West Ham sit third in the nine-team table and Dyer is targeting a top-three finish to complete what has been an encouraging season at second-string level.
"I've said before that it's not the most important thing to win the games in the reserves - it's about the development of players - but we still want to win and finish as high as possible. It's good for the club if we can finish second or third so that's what we'll be going for."