Steven Pressley insists he saw clear improvement from his Carlisle United fringe players last night - despite their 4-2 defeat to Wolves’ under-21s.

The Blues began their Trophy campaign with a loss in front of a small Brunton Park crowd which was officially given as 893.

Some in the third-lowest ever home attendance booed at the final whistle as the young visitors got the better of a United side which was also inexperienced in some positions.

It was a fifth home game without victory in all competitions for the Cumbrians.

Pressley, though, said he could see the fruits of “unseen work” behind the scenes regarding the development of his young players.

“I think people need to understand what we’re trying to do,” United’s manager said.

“They need to understand we’ve got a young group behind the first team and we’re working hard to develop them.

“There’s a lot of unseen work going on at this football club. Only in time will people realise that.

“The concern to me isn’t too great. I know how hard we’re all working and how good the group is, how together we are as a group. So I’ve got no concerns.”

United twice went behind in the first half and twice levelled through Hallam Hope – captain for the night – and Ryan Loft.

Wolves under-21s, though, scored twice more after the break as Benny Ashley-Seal completed his hat-trick.

Pressley made eight changes to his side, handing debuts to Louis Gray and Jarrad Branthwaite, also calling up Jon Mellish, Canice Carroll, Elias Sorensen, Christie Elliott, Loft and Hope.

Aaron Hayden also came on as a second-half squad while youngsters Taylor Charters and Charlie Barnes were in the squad.

Newcastle loan striker Sorensen was watched by Magpies loan manager Shola Ameobi who spoke to Pressley after the game.

Carlisle’s boss said: “He [Ameobi] was commenting that’s as hard as he’s ever seen Elias work. He worked tirelessly. That’s real improvement in the kid since he’s come in here.

“I’ve had a couple of good conversations with him, spoke to him about a number of things, and for me his response has been excellent. That was really encouraging.

“I thought Hallam Hope, coming [into the team], worked exceptionally hard which was pleasing. I learned a lot. Not just his goal, which he took brilliantly, but his overall play and attitude to the game was terrific. That’s a real plus.”

Pressley admitted there was “naivety” in how Carlisle conceded some of Wolves under-21s’ goals but said that was to be expected from inexperienced players.

He said: “It’s a learning curve for our young players. We only learn by making mistakes and understanding how to improve from them.

“I was a young centre-back myself and I made a million mistakes, but as long as you learn from them, that’s the important thing.”

Pressley claimed some involved last night have given him greater food for thought than they had in recent reserve friendlies, in which Carlisle have suffered heavy defeats to Sunderland and Hartlepool.

He said: “I think a few [through their performances] have said that they really want to play, and that was the important factor.

“The recent games when we’ve involved a lot of these players, the Sunderland and Hartlepool games, nobody’s really said by performance that I want to play in the first team. But there were quite a number here who stepped forward.

“We’re doing a lot of work with them in the afternoons, these young players, tirelessly trying to improve them, and the encouraging thing for me was we saw improvement. There’s a lot more to come but I’m pleased with the progress of some of them.”

United will also face Blackpool and Morecambe in the Trophy’s northern group G, with the competition remaining controversial to many fans because of the involvement of Premier League under-21 sides.

Wolves coach Rob Edwards said it is a “great competition” for his young players and was delighted with his team’s performance, adding on the club website: “There were a few people in the crowd which was good, we want more to create the realism for the boys, but it was a good game, a good test.”

Pressley, meanwhile, said the visitors’ strength should not be underestimated just because they are an under-21 outfit.

“I don’t like to lose any game but with the exception of one or two players, the age of the group was very similar,” he said.

“These type of clubs can spend enormous amounts of money on their young players. We have to remember that. It’s not the Wolves of 10 years ago.

"Look at the squad and their young players, and how many of them are playing with national teams at younger levels. It’s full of that.”