Preston North End U19s fell to a late 2-1 defeat at home to Salford City in a match where each side saw a player sent off.
The visitors took the lead in the 22nd minute before their captain Jacob Lara saw red seven minutes before the break for a high-footed tackle on Charlie Goldsmith.
Kacper Pasiek equalised for PNE with the last kick of the first half, before their own skipper Tom Wilkinson was dismissed four minutes after the break and, in the dying embers, Salford stole all three points.
It was a difficult match for the young Lilywhites, just two days after a harsh FA Youth Cup exit at the hands of Southampton in the quarter-final.
It was a fully-rotated line-up from the team that started at Deepdale, made up of several U16 players.
The match started in lively fashion with the Ammies having the first opportunity on four minutes, with a break down the left which saw the striker drag his effort just wide.
Moments later, the visitors caught North End out over the top for the first time when their attacker raced in but fizzed his shot over the top.
Then PNE created their first chance two minutes later when Rio Pemberton sent in a cross from the right which was headed away to Harry Nevin on the edge of the box and his placed shot was just off target.
Proceedings settled down for some time after that before Salford took the lead midway through the first half, when their striker was slotted through and had an easy finish.
The game changed in the 38th minute when the Salford skipper caught Goldsmith with a dangerously high foot and was sent off, and Goldsmith was unable to continue, being replaced by Theo Carroll as PNE searched for a leveller before the interval.
It arrived just in time when a cross from the right reached Pasiek at the back post and he fired a low strike across goal into the bottom corner.
Four minutes after the break, the Lilywhites were also reduced to ten men when they were caught out by another long ball and Wilkinson was forced to bring down the Salford forward on the edge of the box.
Ellis Horan had two opportunities in the space of ten minutes when the ball reached him on the edge of the area, but both of his efforts were just off target.
PNE were given a let-off on 64 minutes when a Salford cross from the left found the striker in acres of space in the penalty area, but he got his shot all wrong and skied it over the bar.
Pasiek had two more chances to add to his goal in the first half but saw both a strike from just inside the area and a header from a corner saved by the Salford ‘keeper.
In the final stages, the Ammies played a long ball over the top for their forward to race onto, and he managed to round Ryan Hogarth to score a last-gasp winner for the visitors.
It was a painful loss for the young Lilywhites, but coach Andy Fensome chose to see it as a real-life experience for the players.
“It was a learning curve for the younger lads in the squad,” he said, speaking to PNE.Com after the match.
“We played some good football at times but we were very naïve with our defending.
“At times, I thought we were the better side and had half chances which we didn’t take and then you get hit with sucker punches.”
With another defeat coming so soon after their fantastic FA Youth Cup journey came to an end, Fenners knows it is up to him and his staff, as well as the players, to remain positive and get ready to bounce back.
He said: “If they want to be footballers, they’ve got to learn to deal with games coming in quick succession.
“They have to learn to deal with the disappointment of losing games, get over it and move onto the next one.”
The next game for the U19s is the semi-final of the Professional Youth Cup against Bolton Wanderers, which will take place next Saturday at Springfields, with kick-off at 10.30am.
PNE line-up: Hogarth, Nevin, Pasiek, Horan, Wilkinson, McGhee, Eccleston, Pemberton, Havard (T. Mawene, 65), Khan (Wilson, 45), Goldsmith (Carroll, 39). Subs not used: Stowell, Garrigan.