Kevin Sheedy said he couldn't have asked anything more of his Everton Under-18 players despite seeing their FA Youth Cup dreams dashed by Norwich.
A brace from striker Chris Long wasn't enough at Goodison Park as the 10-man Blues suffered a 4-2 defeat to exit the competition at the quarter-final stage.
"The players are really disappointed," Sheedy told evertontv. "They've played their hearts out and had a right good go but it didn't really work for us on the night.
"We were just a little bit off the level we're usually at and we've played a lot better. The sending off [of Ibou Touray] gave Norwich a massive lift but even down to 10 men, we still kept trying to play, got ourselves back to 3-2 and then got caught on the counter going for the equaliser.
"So I'm disappointed for the players because we've been outstanding in this Youth Cup and we've had some good victories.
"We knew Norwich were a good team with good attacking players and they played well, worked hard, closed us down, stopped us trying to play and, on the night, probably just edged it. But overall I can't fault our players - they've worked really hard, they've done their best and that's all you can really ask of them."
The hour-mark dismissal of Ibou Touray for a late challenge on Cameron Norman gave the young Blues a mountain to climb but Sheedy defended the left-back, adding: "It was just an enthusiastic challenge from a young lad who's keen to make his way in the game.
"He's gone through two challenges and the ball's broken for a 50/50 and he's just mistimed it slightly. He's not a malicious lad, he doesn't do that, he just goes for the ball and unfortunately the referee saw it as a red card. These things happen and Ibou will learn from that."