Tony Carr was left to reflect on what might have been after his West Ham United youngsters were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup last night.
The Academy side were beaten 2-0 at the Boleyn Ground by a strong Bolton Wanderers who edged an even game by making the most of their chances on a freezing night in east London. "We are really disappointed," Carr said. "All the boys are really low and choked that they didn't do better but as I said to them. 'You can't fault your effort, we just weren't good enough on the night. They were that little bit better than us.'"
Perhaps most frustrating for Carr was defeat meant his talented teens would miss out on a home fourth-round tie with Port Vale, with Bolton now claiming that prize. "It denies the boys another opportunity to play at the stadium and that is as disappointing as losing really," he said. "As I have said many times, it is about developing the young players. You obviously want to develop a winning mentality.
"If we had got the win, it would have meant another night at Upton Park and you start to grow and grow with confidence and who knows what could have happened? It wasn't to be this time."
The home side fell behind in the 12th minute to a Temitope Obadeyi goal from a free-kick. Sam Sheridan then wrapped up the win as the game entered the closing stages, but not before several opportunities for the hosts to equalise - especially through Freddie Sears midway through the half. "They scored, really in effect, with their first attack," Carr recalled. "That really put us on the back foot and the way they play with ten men behind the ball it was always then going to be very difficult to break them down."
Of that decisive moment for the home side, Carr added: "The gilt-edged chance fell to Freddie Sears. He burst past the defender, who fouled him on the edge of the box. He stayed on his feet and stumbled into the box. The goalkeeper came out. He shot as he was falling over and the goalkeeper stuck a foot out and saved it.
"It was a little bit unfortunate we didn't get the free-kick and again unfortunate that we didn't score from Freddie's honesty really. He was trying to stay on his feet." Yet, as well as honesty, Sears had shown plenty of commitment in playing - as the striker was struggling before kick-off with illness.
"He wasn't 100 per cent fit, to be fair," said Carr of his No10, who lit up the early part of the season with several goals including a memorable hat-trick at Millwall back in October, before suffering a broken foot. "On another night, he would have taken a couple of chances that came his way but he wasn't 100 per cent.
"All credit to him. He's got out of his sick bed to play. He went down with a real heavy cold - flu-like symptoms, a chest infection - and really he has got out of his bed to play. All credit to him - it just wasn't to be for us.
"I couldn't fault the players' effort - I thought they gave everything they had. We just weren't good enough around the goal and we didn't take our chances at vital times and it has cost us. We just needed to get that goal. If we had got that at the right time I think we could have gone on to win it because we had the momentum. It just wasn't to be. Good luck to Bolton in the end."