Marc Nash was left feeling a huge sense of pride after Blyth Spartans advanced into the next round of FA Youth Cup by beating Darlington 6-0 at Croft Park.
Nash, who runs the team along with Spartans first-team manager Michael Nelson in association with Tyne Met college, watched his side cruise into the first round qualifying.
Joseph Hands struck twice in the first-half with Jay Errington also getting on the scoresheet as Darlington were reduced to 10 men after just eight minutes.
Jamie Norvell also claimed a brace before substitute Matty Nesbitt rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot.
For many of the young Spartans, it was their competitive first game since 2020.
“I feel a huge sense of pride,” said Nash, who is also first-team manager at Northern League Division One side North Shields.
“Most of the lads that played had a largely redundant season last year due to Covid.
“They’ve been chomping at the bit to play competitively for over 12 months now.
“I was absolutely delighted with their attitudes and the way they’ve gone about it.
“I said at half-time, I felt even against 11 men for the short period, we scored and stretched Darlington and kept threatening.
“You never know but I think we might have won anyway, but there’s no doubt the sending off makes things a little easier.”
Wide players Hands and Norvell were Spartans’ biggest attacking threats on the night, causing all sorts of problems for Darlington.
“They’re a massive threat,” Nash said after Hands and Norvell said a brace each.
“They’re fit lads, they both can dribble and have bags of pace.
“They’re a defender’s nightmare. If you leave them one-on-one then they’re going to hurt you.
“Tonight is a reflection of the hard work they’ve put in the last few months.”
The experience of playing at Croft Park with spectators in attendance added to the occasion.
Nash added: “There could have been a bit of nervousness around that as they’re used to playing on park pitches in front of one man and his dog.
“To play at Croft Park in front of a crowd is a good experience.
“I said in the changing rooms, they’ve got that one off their back now where they’ve played in front of fans here.
“The game in two weeks time will be a tougher test but they’ve had that experience so they should hopefully be stronger for it.
“The Blyth first-team is doing well at the moment, so it just goes along with the buzz that is already around.”
Spartans host Billingham Town in the next round on the week commencing September 13th, who are full of confidence after beating Scarborough Athletic 10-1.
Nash added: “Billingham are churning out young players who are getting into their first-team and getting in-and-around Hartlepool’s set-up as well.
“Each round you go through you expect the level to go up. We’ll prepare as normal and hopefully get another positive result.”