Danny Wilson says the biggest positive of United's Johnstone's Paint Trophy campaign this term has been the emergence of several youngsters.
In Tuesday's shootout defeat at Coventry, Wilson handed a first senior start to Callum McFadzean and in the second half handed a debut to 17-year-old striker Diego De Girolamo.
On taking the opportunity to blood the Academy prospects, Wilson commented: "The youngsters have given us great hope for the future. It was a big game for them, hopefully the first of many down the line.
"Callum did very well but tired as you would expect, Jordan (Chapell) looked sharp when he came on, whilst Joe (Ironside) and Diego (De Girolamo) gave good accounts of themselves.
"Diego is one I believe has got a real chance if he continues his development. He has trained with the first team for the last couple of weeks and the lads know what he can do.
"The whole experience of having a pre-match meal and spending time around the lads at the hotel is new to him but he is a very confident young lad.
"The biggest thing was getting him on the pitch and no matter what happened I wanted to get him on because I needed to have a proper look at him against an experienced League One side. I would have no qualms about using him, or some of the others in the league, if you are good enough you will get a chance."
Jordan Chapell, recalled from his loan at Burton Albion, featured as a substitute and Wilson explained his decision to bring the 21-year-old back to Bramall Lane:
"The squad is so thin, we needed Jordan to return, with the programme we have coming up I didn't want to play certain people at Coventry but circumstances meant I had to.
"We don't want to lose key players at important times, Jordan offers us versatility in the wide areas and he will be an important player to us."