Latics head of academy Greg Rioch highlighted the importance of last night’s Checkatrade Trophy win over Middlesbrough under-21s, saying it offers a pathway to the first team for academy players.
Lee Evans, Noel Hunt, Ryan Colclough and debutant Victor Maffeo scored for Latics in the 4-1 win as they overcame a nervy period in the second half where they were hanging onto a 2-1 lead.
The win put Latics top of Group B in the competition, but the result was only part of the reward from the match for Rioch.
“The fact they are getting the opportunity from the manager has been incredible,” he said.
“I think it gives the others in the youth team a little bit of incentive that it can be done. There’s something they can see looking forwards.
“There’s something at the end of the journey and it’s possible to do it.”
There were full debuts for keeper Matija Sarkic, Tylor Golden, Terrell Thomas and Adam Long, as well as debuts off the bench fro Mwiya Malumo and Divin Baningime.
And Rioch was pleased to see the clutch break into the first team.
“It was an incredible evening,” he said.
“It was great to see a couple of the lads make their full debuts. A couple of the lads came on as substitutes as well and they got a real taste of what first team football is all about.
“It was an incredible evening not only for the players but everyone at the club and the academy.”
The competition has drawn criticism from fans, and last night’s gate at the DW Stadium of 1,110 adds weight to the argument a revamp for the competition hasn’t worked.
But the focus for Latics was firmly on developing younger players.
“I think it built confidence as the game went along, Tyler Golden grew in confidence as the game went along, made an assist at the end of the game with an nice ball to the back post, not forgetting his run at the line,” explained Rioch.
“Adam Long was calm and collected for a 16-year-old.”
Many of the starlets on show last night will switch their attentions to the FA Youth Cup next week, when Latics travel to Morcambe.
And Rioch thinks the players will be better for their experience at first team level.
“They do some really good work with Nick Chadwick in the under-18s and having them involved in the training every now and again so they are getting involved with the flavour and the intensity of what first team football is all about,” he said.