Will Wood believes the Checkatrade Trophy experience at Peterborough United will stand Southampton's youngsters in good stead for the games that lie ahead of them.
Saints' young team was beaten 2-0 by the League One leaders at ABAX Stadium on Tuesday night in their opening game of the competition, but they came away from the match with plenty of reasons to be proud, as they stood up to a tough, physical test from their senior opponents.
Left-back Wood said: "It was a good test for us. I think we started poorly in the first half and gave away two sloppy goals, but in the second half we came out flying and I think we were the better team at the start of the second half.
"But that's men's football – the real world, if you like – and we don't get that physicality in our league, so I'm really pleased with how we stepped up and dealt with the physical battle.
"We could have just sat back and been immature about it, but I'm really proud of the boys. We all stepped up, we all faced what they could give us."
Wood believes the experience of facing Peterborough is something the playerrs can use when the Under-23 team returns to Premier League 2 action.
"They're streetwise, they've done it all before," he said of Tuesday's opponents. "A few of them are experienced lads – they've had over 100 appearances nearly all of them, and between us we've got pretty much none, so I'm just proud of the boys and looking forward to the next games that come up.
"We can take the experience from this and put it into the games we're going to face in the Premier League 2. You're not going to learn much more than against a team like that."