Everton Under-18s boss Paul Tait admitted his disappointment his young players did not hit the heights they are capable of in Wednesday night's 4-1 Youth Cup defeat at Manchester United.
The young Blues were unable capitalise on a lightning-quick start as United came from behind to triumph in the fifth-round tie.
Francis Okoronkwo put the Toffees ahead on 10 minutes at Old Trafford but United produced an almost immediate response when Charlie McNeill netted from the penalty spot.
Kobbie Mainoo then headed the home team in front before second-half strikes from Sam Mather and Alejandro Garnacho sealed United's progress.
Tait told evertonfc.com: "I think the biggest disappointment is the lads haven’t given a really good account of themselves, which they had done in the competition so far.
"We got ourselves into a good position with Francis' goal then conceded straight after…although I didn’t think it was a penalty.
"But we didn’t get enough control in possession, and we didn’t do the hard yards out of possession. I think a lot of players looked nervous and leggy.
"We had more control at the start of the second half but couldn’t turn it into a goal, and then they’ve hit us on the counter-attack and took the game away from us."
Everton started the game with attacking purpose, with the in-form Stanley Mills – who had scored three goals in the Blues’ two games in this competition this term – coming extremely close to opening the scoring five minutes in.
The tricky winger used his pace to get round Logan Pye on the right flank and shoot from just inside the box, forcing United keeper Radek Vitek into a fine save.
Everton got the lead their positive start deserved on 10 minutes through Okoronkwo. The teenager calmly slotted the ball past Vitek into the far corner of the net after teammate Martin Sherif picked him out.
The hosts quickly responded, however, and were awarded a penalty when Luke Butterfield was adjudged to have bundled over Garnacho in the area. Charlie McNeill hammered his spot kick past Patrick Nash, leaving the Everton number one with no chance.
Isaac Price then came within inches of putting Everton back in the lead on 19 minutes when his exquisite volley from just outside the area crashed against the bar.
It was the home side who were to strike next, though, when a curling cross from full-back Marc Jurado was met by Mainoo. The midfielder’s cushioned header found the bottom corner to put United in front.
Everton came close to levelling the scores 17 minutes into the second half when Jenson Metcalfe’s inswinging corner was met by Sherif, whose header flashed just past the post.
That missed opportunity was made all the more agonising when United made it 3-1 just one minute later – Mather smashing the ball home from after a rebound fell kindly to him 15 yards out.
The Toffees showed impressive determination as they continued hunt a way back into the game and Metcalfe saw his shot clip the bar from 25 yards out.
But it was to be United’s night and they got their fourth of the game when Garnacho broke clear on the counter-attack in the final minute before finishing past Nash.
Manager Tait emphasised the importance of his team learning from this experience – and highlighted the encouraging displays produced by some of his young players.
"Stan [Mills] put an absolute shift in," Tait said. "He is struggling with his knee and he was still our biggest threat.
"I thought Martin Sherif did really well up front. He’s only 15 but he worked the line really well. He was a real positive.
"Reece Welch did some very good bits of defending and looked composed in possession.
"Young Ishe [Samuels-Smith] did well, too, at full-back, but I think a lot of lads know they can play a lot better. That’s the disappointing thing, but they will learn an awful from this, which will hold them in good stead.”