Warren Joyce was pleased with Tom Thorpe's outstanding performance in the Under-21s' 2-1 victory at Newcastle on Monday night.
The skipper opened the scoring with a superb header before Tom Lawrence came off the bench to grab the winner as the Reds leapfrogged the Magpies in the table.
"Tom was excellent throughout the game," Joyce told MUTV. "He prefers playing at the back but we've not got an abundance of midfield players at the minute at this level. It's trying to rotate to fit everyone in the team and we've got two or three centre-halves.
"He certainly put in a shift for the side. He headed it at both ends, put some great tackles in and uses the ball sensibly as well."
Joyce felt the team improved after the break following a disappointing opening 45 minutes in the North East with the sides going in goalless at the interval despite the hosts creating most of the chances.
"I thought we were poor in the first half," he added. "We had several passengers and there were some dull minds - poor decisions with and without the ball, not tracking runners and they could have scored a few goals from our errors.
"I thought the second half was a lot better. We didn't have any passengers, we passed it quite well and put some tackles in which was the catalyst for other people tackling. They're a reasonable side but I thought we were deserved winners."
Welsh youngster Lawrence, who has graduated from last year's Under-18s, can expect more involvement after scoring his third goal of the campaign.
"Tom's unfortunate not to start the games," the coach explained. "He's been as patient as he can be because he's a bit of a snapper! But he can come on and change things and it's pleasing now that he's had a good run of training without any injuries.
"He suffered a lot of injuries last year but I'm sure he will build from that and have a really good