Everton Under-18s were beaten 2-0 by league leaders Manchester United at USM Finch Farm on Saturday morning.
Two first-half goals settled the issue, although the Blues had more than their fair share of possession and will feel they could have got something from the game.
The bulk of the Everton side had played in the energy-sapping extra-time victory over Wigan Athletic in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday and manager Paul Tait was satisfied with his team’s performance, if not the result, against United.
“I was pleased with the way the lads went about things and on another day we could have won the game,” he said.
“We had some tired legs and tired minds out there near the end after the midweek shift they put in.
“Some of the football we played was really good and 2-0 flattered them but ultimately you have to put your chances away. Our composure and technique in and around the box let us down a bit today.
“We changed things for the second half to get after them a bit more but just didn’t quite have the quality to finish in the final third.”
Everton nearly scored as early as the third minute when Rafa Garcia raced through to collect a Charlie Whitaker pass and was very unfortunate to see his effort hit the foot of the post.
United took the lead in the 18th minute. Everton were undone by a splendid passing move that ended with Omari Forson prodding the ball past Jack Barrett from close range.
Everton responded well, with Whitaker and Lewis Warrington using the ball intelligently in the midfield area.
The busy Garcia reacted quickly to get to a loose ball before Johan Guadagno in the United goal, but couldn’t hit the target, and Whitaker squandered a wonderful opportunity when he fired the ball high over the bar with the goal at his mercy after Garcia had dispossessed the keeper.
United showed their quality when they passed their way through the Everton defence again on the half hour and only a fine save from Barrett prevented Daniel Gore from doubling the lead.
Noam Emeran came even closer when he curled a direct free-kick narrowly wide.
The second goal came just before the break and it was an unfortunate one for Everton to concede. A right-wing corner was headed goalwards by central defender William Fish and with the help of a deflection it somehow squirmed through to find the net.
United came into the game with 15 wins from their 18 fixtures thus far, but Everton controlled much of the second period and were far more penetrative, albeit without seriously threatening to reduce the arrears.
Garcia’s angled shot was palmed away well by Guadagno, Warrington pulled a low effort wide and midway through the half, Daniel Lowey glanced a header over from a Sean McAllister free-kick.
As for United, they probably considered the two-goal cushion secure enough and didn’t create any chances of their own until the final 20 minutes of the match.
Even then, Charlie McNeill didn’t trouble Barrett from 20 yards and Forson slid an attempt narrowly wide.
Everton had a late appeal for a penalty waved away when Lowey seemed to be impeded when shooting for goal.