Academy Manager On FA Youth Cup Exit
Ciaran Donnelly praised his players for showing courage to play football the right way and remained immensely proud of their performance, despite exiting the FA Youth Cup at Bolton.
The under-18s made the most of a big pitch at the Macron Stadium by playing out expansively from the back and looked favourites to win the encounter when Denzel Williams' header levelled matters at 1-1.
However, the demands of extra-time took their toll and it was left to Cameron Moore to secure a 2-1 victory for the hosts after 120 minutes of action.
"I thought we were excellent from minute one to 90 but we ran out of steam in extra-time," Donnelly said.
"We were in control for the majority of it, we played some excellent football and the build-up play was great. For the first 60 minutes we probably didn't have that cutting edge in the final third, but our build-up play had been lovely all game. Then Ralph (Chea) came on and just offered us something different, and it just changed the game a little bit for us.
"We got that cutting edge and once we got the equaliser we should have gone and won the game in the last 20 minutes because we completely dominated and had some fantastic chances.
"I'm immensely proud of the effort, it was a terrific effort and they showed some real courage to follow through with playing to a system that we've adopted and showed real courage to play out from the back under pressure and build our attacks."
Although admittedly 'puzzled' to why his side couldn't build on their display in extra-time, Donnelly credited the hosts for securing a place in the next round of the competition.
"You have to give them credit that they've came through it physically stronger than us in the end. On the balance of extra-time you have to say that they deserved to win it in extra-time.
"But for the plan of producing footballers, we've had some really strong performances from individuals and as a collective the team performed really well."
First-team manager Gary Bowyer attended the fixture alongside his coaching staff and had words of encouragement for the youngsters in the dressing room.
"The manager had a few words with them afterwards about what they want to be and the message he was sending was great. The FA Youth Cup isn't the be all and end all, it's about wanting to be professional footballers and learning the lessons from games like this," Donnelly added.