Mikey Harris admitted to having mixed feelings after watching his Pompey Academy side exit the FA Youth Cup in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers.
The Blues Academy coach cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as his battling side laid siege to the visitors’ goal as an entertaining tie served up a thrilling and one-sided finale.
But, ultimately, the underdogs were unable to cause an upset as Jamie Thomas’ fine individual goal settled the match in the Trotters’ favour.
Bolton, who ply their trade in the Premier League under-18 division have now dumped the FA Youth Alliance League south west division Blues out of the competition at the third-round stage twice in three seasons.
But although disappointed not to come through the tie, Harris spoke of his pride at the way his players applied themselves in front of a 367-strong crowd.
He said: ‘The lads and I are disappointed with the result.
‘I felt we created enough chances to win the game but for whatever reason the ball wouldn’t seem to go over the line for us.
‘On the other hand, though, I’m very proud of the lads and the way they applied themselves.
‘They showed heart, desire and spirit – especially in the second half to take control of the game.’
An added frustration for Harris was the timing and manner of the game’s decisive goal, which arrived during a period of dominant Blues pressure at the start of the second period.
He said: ‘The goal came somewhat against the run of play. But it was a great cup tie.
‘There was plenty of action for both teams and we are just disappointed we were unable to get that equaliser.
‘If we had levelled the scores, then I believe we would have gone on to win the game.
‘But the main thing for me is the development of the young players and trying to progress them into the first team.
‘They may not feel like it now but that experience will stand them in good stead for their careers and for their future because they are still developing as footballers.’
Harris saw his side make a nervy start to proceedings but then grow into the tie as the game wore on.
And the Academy coach was also quick to praise the reaction and mentality of his players in the wake of a below-par opening period on the big stage before joking they were cursed in front of goal.
He said: ‘It was a different game and environment for them to play in.
‘We did a lot of work to manage those emotions from a psychological point of view leading into the game.
‘The first-half was a nervy and edgy affair.
‘It was a typical cup game with two teams that were fairly matched.
‘The important thing for me, though, was the lads’ reaction to the game as it unfolded.
‘Credit to them they went out and showed what they were about in the second half.
‘The last thing we couldn’t do was get that ball over the line – it seemed like there was some sort of invisible shield on the goalline for some reason!’