With Jesse Marsch’s senior side taking on Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening, the young Whites were without the likes of Mateo Joseph, Leo Hjelde, Darko Gyabi and Joe Gelhardt for the visit of the Magpies, while Sonny Perkins started the game on the bench.
However, while Skubala’s outfit were by no means at full strength against the fifth-placed Magpies, the Division Two table-toppers made light work of Elliot Dickman’s youngsters, with centre-back Kris Moore giving the home side the lead with a glancing header in the second minute of the match, before Max Dean’s second-half hat-trick sealed all three points.
And, the centre-forward’s three strikers will have given Skubala something of a headache going forwards, as the 18-year-old not only stole the show against Newcastle in the absence of Perkins, Joseph and Gelhardt, he very much took his opportunity to stake a starting spot for the U21s.
Indeed, despite having been a constant threat in the final third throughout his time in the academy set-up, bagging three goals in 13 fixtures for the U18s and netting 13 goals over 36 outings for the U21s prior to Monday, the form of Perkins and Joseph had limited his game time at U21 level – with Monday marking just his fourth outing of the season for Skubala’s side.
However, after his second-half heroics, it would be hard to begrudge the teenager a place in the starting XI going forwards, with the Yorkshire Evening Post journalist, Joe Donnohue, stating of Dean’s display in his match commentary: “Hasn’t played loads this season, but is taking this opportunity with real conviction.”
This is something Skubala himself touched upon after the victory, with the 40-year-old stating of the striker (via the Yorkshire Evening Post): “He was good. We talked about at half-time, ‘Keep challenging the line and we think you’ll get in’, because they had a high line at times.
“He’s been in and out of the squad, it’s been a really good day for him because he’s come in and I thought he took his hat-trick and his goals really well. It’s a really proud performance by Deano today.
“I said to three or four of them today, ‘Look, you’ve been waiting for this. You’ve been ready for this. So, go and take a chance, go and show that you can perform and make it really difficult going into January who I’m going to pick’, so that’s what I really liked. They’ve made my job harder, if you like.”
Indeed, it would very much appear as if Dean grasped his opportunity with both hands on Monday, something that could well see the 18-year-old given much more of a look in during the second half of the season.