Nigel Pearson was pleased with the opportunity to take a closer look at some fringe members of his squad against Tranmere Rovers, despite the disappointment of the FA Cup fixture’s eventual result.
“We learned a lot about our young players tonight and I thought the senior players who were involved were excellent,” said the Head Coach.
“[Christian] Kabasele, [José] Holebas and [Andre] Gray did a lot of good things and set really good examples. We found out quite a lot about some of our fringe players.
“The added benefit is some of our youngsters have been introduced to men’s football, and welcome to it! It was a really tough game, congratulations to Tranmere. It would have been nice to get to penalties after we got to extra time but it wasn’t to be.”
The average age of the starting XI for the Hornets was just 23 years and the Head Coach felt the first half proved a culture shock for some players not used to senior football. But he would not let the state of the Prenton Park pitch be used as an excuse.
“It [the pitch] is the same for everybody,” he said. “They showed they’ve got experience and desire. We had a few words at half-time, in the first half I think we were second best in terms of desire and maybe that’s a steep learning curve for some of our young players.
“You’ve got to earn the right to play in every game and I think we saw a big improvement in the second half. We knew the pitch was going to be difficult.
“It’s been a very valuable experience for us as coaching staff to have a look at some of the players who we didn’t know all that much about.”
The Hornets’ current league position, combined with an extensive injury list and unfortunate fixture schedule, meant Pearson named a second-string side for the match. But the Head Coach was keen not to disrespect the competition or the night’s victors, who can now look forward to a home tie against Manchester United on Sunday.
“I don’t want to talk in any other way than to say it was a good cup tie, congratulations to Micky [Mellon] and his staff,” he said.
“You can see how important it was to them as well. I think he’s a really good football man. It’s a good night for him and Tranmere, so I want to congratulate him.
“For people who thought we weren’t too interested in it [the FA Cup match], we were, but what we couldn’t do was risk too many first team players. Our selection reflects the situation we’re in, and that’s that the Premier League is the most important thing.”