Nottingham Forest Under 18s' head coach Gareth Holmes felt his side showed good spirit but ultimately fell short in the 4-1 FA Youth Cup defeat against Stoke City.
Luke McCormick scored for The Reds after two early Tyrese Campbell goals gave Stoke the lead, but a red card for Choz Charlesworth at 2-1 to the hosts switched the momentum of the game and Holmes felt that was a key moment which ultimately led to defeat at the bet365 Stadium.
He said: “I think we will look back on it and we will be disappointed with the first half. We probably didn’t do ourselves justice as we set out a game plan to press high and get on the front foot and we didn’t really commit to that press and weren’t brave enough to do it fully. It is difficult to ask them to be courageous and go out there on the front foot and that is a learning curve. Defeat
“That is what is great about this competition because you put them at a first-team stadium against a Category One team and ask them to go on the front foot. We didn’t quite do that, we had a chat about it at half time and we did that in the first 15 minutes of the second half and we were then in the ascendency up until the sending off.”
“Luke has taken his chance really well. We didn’t perform at our best in the first half but we have still created chances. We had to regroup in the second half and we were in the ascendency in the first 15 minutes and I think we were looking like we could get back into the game.
“Choz will learn from it. I’m not going to turn around to him and say don’t be full-blooded or whole-hearted as that is what we want our players to be. We want them to be competitive and aggressive and we talk a lot about one-on-ones. Choz will look back on it and think he could have been more patient and shown more restraint but that is a learning curve for him.”
Holmes was pleased with the effort shown by his players, especially when the game was all but lost with 15 minutes left to play.
He said: “We have got to raise the expectations. We talk about this now and I am delighted that the boys went and applied themselves in that second half right to the end. To a man everybody kept pushing and everybody kept wanting to do better. No matter the scoreline we wanted to keep pushing and have a pride in the scoreline and that is testament to the boys.
“We have got to make sure that we raise the expectations of our ourselves and learn from this experience. It is fine margins in that at 2-1 we are back in it and on top and then a mistake can cost you.”