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Pearson watches returnees

Manager Nigel Pearson watched Callum O’Dowda, Marley Watkins, Nathan Baker and Liam Walsh in competitive action for the first time as they helped the Under-23s record a 2-0 win.

Pearson was in the stands for the victory which sees the young Robins stretch their lead at the top of the Professional Development League South.

Watkins grabbed an assist for Sam Bell’s opener before getting on the scoresheet himself.

City were dominant throughout and Max O’Leary had little to do except for a couple of smart saves in the second half.

Pearson told Robins TV it was “what we were looking for” as he assessed the performances of those players returning from injury.

WATCH NIGEL PEARSON'S INTERVIEW AFTER THE UNDER-23s

Centre-back Baker earned his first minutes of the season, while Watkins was in action for the first time since October when on loan at Aberdeen.

O’Dowda was back on the pitch for the first time since Boxing Day and it was 90 minutes for midfielder Walsh who has featured for the development squad in recent weeks.

“It’s a step for them to be closer to the first team,” said Pearson. “We’d agreed before the game to get around 65 minutes for the three of them which was important.

“It was good to get 90 minutes for someone like Walsh too, who was able to go out there and there were some really good aspects to today’s game.

“It’s a good taste of competitive football for them. You can train as often as you like but it doesn’t have the same effect as being involved as competitive game. I thought they looked comfortable, obviously we had a strong side out today but it’s a training exercise for them and for me it’s a chance to see them in competitive action - that’s always a useful exercise for me.”

The City manager said he wasn’t tempted at all to give the players extra minutes, despite them looking comfortable, with balance key in these early stages to their recovery.

Pearson said: “We think it’s the right stage for them to play that amount. We get more injuries when players get fatigued be that physically or mentally, but they were all comfortable and confidence-wise for them it’s a big step for them to know they can play for that length of time with no problems.”

This was also Pearson’s first look at the Under-23s setup in matchday action and he added: “It’s very efficient, it’s a good operation and I thought we played well today. It’s always good to have a look at the bigger picture.”

City Under-23s’ next game is at Millwall on Monday, March 15th (2pm KO).

Follow the Under-23s on City’s social channels.

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