Mick McCarthy paid tribute to the contribution of his Wolves’ youngsters after Wanderers squeezed past Southend and into the Carling Cup third round last night.
McCarthy handed Sam Winnall and Danny Batth their senior debuts for the club and Ashley Hemmings his first start for the tie at Molineux, in a Wolves side featuring 10 adjustments from the one which drew 1-1 at Everton on Saturday.
The trio, all 19, each played their part, with centre-back Batth given a testing time by a spirited Shrimpers attack and forwards Hemmings and Winnall combining well up front.
The latter earned the first-half penalty which Nenad Milijas converted to put the Barclays Premier League outfit in front.
Southend deservedly forced extra-time after their captain Craig Easton headed past Wayne Hennessey in the 80th minute, but Wolves skipper Richard Stearman had the final say, bundling home Ronald Zubar’s cross in stoppage time at the end of the second additional period to send Wanderers through.
It was a victory McCarthy admitted his team did not deserve, but the manager was more than satisfied with the performances of the three teenagers.
“The three young lads were great, I was delighted with them,” McCarthy said.
“It is always a gamble. If I had just played those two up front and Danny Batth with eight of the others that had played on Saturday, you might have seen even more from them.
“They didn’t have that solid base, and they have come into a team that has completely changed, albeit they have trained together for the last week or 10 days.
“I was pleased with them – I thought Sam Winnall was great getting the penalty and Ashley Hemmings worked hard and did his little bits.
“Big Danny Batth had a tough game and had to fight for every single ball, so it was positive on the night – the result, and the performance of the three young lads.”
Winnall suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury last year and was keen to thank the club’s head of medical department Steve Kemp, physiotherapist Alan Peacham and masseur Mark James for helping him recover to make his bow for the first-team.
“I haven’t had chance to say it before but I think I owe everything to the medical staff here,” Winnall said.
“Kempy, Peachey and Mark James have all been tremendous with me.
“They’ve made my injury, which is not a nice injury to have, as easy as possible for me to come back.
“So I’m forever grateful to all the medical staff for how they helped me through.
“It was a tough time, no doubt about it, and it made me mentally stronger because I had to be so driven and determined to come through it.
“But the medical staff were brilliant and helped me so much with the injury and then the rehab, so I’m really thankful to them.”
Southend manager Paul Sturrock praised the efforts of his team as they now turn their attentions back to npower League Two, where they are currently lying third form bottom.
“It’s nice to perform like we did, but the league is the most important thing,” Sturrock said.
“I knew that was in the team and it is probably a good time. It has been very difficult to know what my best team is, chopping and changing and trying to find the best shape.
“I’m still probably not sure, but a lot of people did themselves a lot of good.