Dan Nlundulu says playing the the Papa John's Trophy has helped him improve as a player.
The striker made four appearances for Southampton U21s in the competition which gave him his first taste of playing against senior teams.
He said: "Playing men's football is very different. At Southampton we got a taste of it in the EFL Trophy, but it's really not the same.
"Most of the time Premier League Academy teams get beaten by the League One or League Two teams, but for the U21s that can be their best game of the season.
"It's very physical and demanding playing against men's teams, it's grown-up and realistic football. U23s football is not the real world, you're in a little bubble and you have to come out of it for real football."
Nlundulu has started the Imps' past three games and become a central part of his side's front three.
He added: "I had some injury problems but the medical team and manager have been great with me, giving me time to adapt to training and games.
"For me the aim is to get experience, it's a great league to learn my position in and hopefully I'll go back to Southampton as a better player."
Tuesday's game against Sunderland in the Papa John's Trophy is available for live streaming wherever in the world you are for just £10 or equivalent in your local currency. Click here to purchase a match pass.