Everton Under-21s fell to a 1-0 defeat against Leicester City at Belvoir Drive on Monday afternoon.
The young Blues, who were dominant throughout, had to battle the conditions as well as the opposition on a wet and windy day in the East Midlands.
But a late counter-attacking goal from Leicester’s Chris Wood proved to be enough to snatch all three points for the hosts.
David Unsworth’s side started positively and went close inside five minutes when Ryan Ledson found David Henen with an intelligent through ball.
The Belgian forward did well to beat his marker, but could then only fire over the crossbar from eight yards out.
The Blues continued to press and had the ball in the net on the half-hour mark when Courtney Duffus fired past Johnny Maddison, only for the linesman to deem the towering striker offside.
Leicester responded and threatened when Elliot Moore’s corner found Jak McCourt at the far post, but the midfielder could only divert his header wide under pressure form Jonjoe Kenny.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first with Everton firmly on the front foot.
Henen, a constant threat down the left flank, cut in from the wing and let fly with a venomous left-footed drive.
Maddison could only parry and the rebound fell to Duffus, who could not quite rearrange his feet in time to convert past the stranded Leicester goalkeeper.
And Henen was in the thick of the action again with 15 minutes remaining when he was brought down by Elliot Moore.
The foul earned the Foxes defender a yellow card, but the referee deemed the offence to take place just outside the penalty area, despite Everton protests.
Substitute Matthew Kennedy, playing in his first game since completing a six-month loan spell with Hibernian, took the free-kick and saw his curling effort cannon back off the crossbar with Maddison unmoved.
The deadlock was eventually broken with three minutes remaining as Chris Wood latched on to a misplaced pass in midfield, before expertly chipping over Mateusz Hewelt in the Everton goal.
It was a sucker punch for the visitors but the Blues nearly salvaged a point in the dying seconds when Henen’s instinctive strike from Kennedy’s cross forced a superb save from Maddison.
Next up for the young Toffees is a game against West Ham United in Southport on 15 January.