Colchester United boss Tony Humes insists his side are not too young after Saturday's 6-0 loss to MK Dons.
The U's have spent the past two seasons focusing their squad on academy products and 15 of Saturday's 18-man squad were aged under 24.
"We've been totally outclassed and out-thought. But it's one game out of 19," Humes told BBC Essex.
"I expect them to work their socks off on Monday to prove they are worthy to be in the team."
Freddie Sears, 25, and David Fox, 30, were the only players over the age of 23 in the starting 11, along with substitute goalkeeper Chris Lewington, 26.
|Average age of starting 11s on Saturday|
|MK Dons: 25.3||Colchester: 22|
Colchester's financial investment over the past two years has leaned more heavily towards their training ground and academy facilities, rather than building an experienced squad.
Chairman Robbie Cowling has even gone as far as saying that the prestige of their academy is more important than staying in League One.
And the U's have a battle to avoid relegation, as three straight defeats have put them in the bottom four.
"MK Dons have got a lot of kids in their team as well," said Humes, when asked whether his side lacked experience.
"If this is the direction the club is going in, young players need to stand up and be counted.
"Age doesn't matter. We played the last 14 or 15 games with the same players - and they've stood up to it. For some reason today it didn't happen."