Young players must learn quickly in the first team

MK Dons 0-3 Sunderland
Lewis JohnsonLewis Johnson
Lewis Johnson

Louis Thompson says the academy players have to step up and be counted when they are in the first team.

Lewis Johnson, 17, was handed his first start for the club against Sunderland on Tuesday night, while there were second-half substitute appearances for John Freeman, Jack Davies and Charlie Smith - all in their teens.

While Charlie Wyke made it 3-0 for Sunderland in the final eight minutes with Davies and Smith making up a part the defensive line, Thompson said their age cannot be used as an excuse but they have to learn from their experiences as part of the first team.

Wyke's header made it 3-0 against a young Dons defenceWyke's header made it 3-0 against a young Dons defence
Wyke's header made it 3-0 against a young Dons defence

Thompson said: "They're in the dressing room for a reason, and it's because the manager thinks they are good enough and deserve a chance. But it's not just them, we have a responsibility to protect them from that. As a team we have to learn from these types of games.

"The calibre of subs (Sunderland) bring on is testament to their squad but it's a massive learning curve for our boys. We have to put it into perspective – it's an extremely young back line but they have to learn quickly."

At the other end, Johnson's first start for the club showed signs of promise, but Martin said the 17-year-old needs to bring the confidence he shows in the youth team when he's with the first team.

"Lewis has a long way to go physically to compete with these guys week-in, week-out," said the manager. "He's been training with us for six or seven weeks, has shown a lot of promise.

But he needs to start feeling confident when he's in the first team and do what he does in the youth team. He gets in the box a lot with the youth team, and in his previous games with us, he has a moment in the box every game. And at this level you have to take them.

"He's done really well, he's really promising, he's robust and while he's not ready to play regularly now, he's one that will grow with us and if he keeps learning and improving he has a promising future."