Lead Professional Development Phase Coach Adam Robinson praised his side's defensive resolve as the Derby County Under-18s drew 1-1 with Sunderland AFC at Moor Farm.

The draw was the young Rams' third on the bounce at home, and despite leading in the game for upwards of 75 minutes, the Under-18s could not see the victory out.

Charlie Rutt's early opener was cancelled out by a Tom Watson strike with less than 10 minutes to play. Robinson bemoaned the lack of intensity from his side in the second half despite defending well for extensive periods.

"I thought we faired okay in the first half and did well to get the early goal," opened Robinson. "In the second half, we struggled to get to grips with the game.

"I'm disappointed not to win the game as I thought it was there for the taking, having led for so long, but in the end, a draw is probably a fair result."

The Under-18s coped well with the initial burst of pressure from the visitors after taking an early lead but sunk into a defensive shape after the break, which eventually led to an equalising goal for Sunderland.

Robinson believes his team did well in their "individual battles" but could have produced more as a team to control the game's tempo and create more in attacking positions.

Robinson continued: "We could have affected the game higher up the pitch at times rather than settling into a defensive shape.

"I thought we dealt with the pressure relatively well in the second half, but the goal was coming, so we could have pressed higher at times to trouble them more.

"We did well in our individual battles today, but we struggled to retain possession and ended up defending in our own half again too soon after winning the ball.

"We had some good chances in the final five to ten minutes to win the game, but ultimately we could've done more to control the game when ahead."

After a long injury lay-off, midfielder Callum Moore returned to the side as a half-time substitute and had two great chances to snatch all three points for Derby towards the end of the game but could not convert.

Despite this, his manager expressed great joy in seeing him back on the pitch and put the misses down to rustiness on Moore's part. Robinson also praised Marko Borkovic, who set up the opener and one of the chances for Moore towards the end of the game.

Robinson said: "Callum [Moore] came on, and he has been injured for four or five months now, so it was nice to see him back on the pitch.

"The two chances we had late on fell to him; it was a good save from the keeper for the first one, and with the second chance, Marko [Borkovic] has smashed the ball across the box and on another day, he gets a cleaner connection.

"It's all about composure when you get into the final third with the ball, which we didn't have enough of today.

"Crossing and dead-ball situations are a big strength of Marko's, and he showed that today delivering the free-kick for the goal and putting in a couple of brilliant deliveries from either wing."

With the end of the season approaching and preparations for the next one beginning, the starting line-up featured three Under-16 players, which impressed Robinson in the game.

He said: "We had three Under-16s starting the game, which was an excellent experience for them; Harry Hawkins has done well and cemented his place in this team which is great for him moving into his scholarship year.

"Billy [Gough] has played the last three games at left-back and has done well. Lennon [Wheeldon] has recently scored a couple of goals for the 16s, which is why he got a chance today.

"There is a lot more change again today, but it's nice to use the younger lads rather than calling upon trialists."

Words: Sam Allen