Northampton Town Under 18s manager Jon Brady believes his team are 'better than they showed' during their 3-2 loss away to Southend United in the EFL Youth Alliance League South East on Saturday.
Damaray Anyadike scored a first-half hat-trick for the hosts on a wet morning in Essex.
Speaking after the match, Brady said: “Unfortunately, it was as if we were still on the bus, because they got in twice and we conceded two early on.
“However, the boys deserve credit for their fight and spirit to get back into the game.
“We made changes at half-time and started to turn it around, but we can’t start like we did today.
“We had to get up very early, it was a long journey and it was an early kick-off, but there are no excuses.
“It was disappointing because we believe we’re better than we showed, especially in the first-half.”
The defeat means that the young Cobblers’ hopes of finishing top of the league are over. They remain in fifth place with three matches remaining.
Brady added: “We had six first-years playing against a lot of second-years – there’s a big difference.
“We want to be competitive at the top of the league.
“If we win our last three games, we can finish second which would be a fantastic achievement for this group.
“However, we’re looking to develop our players all the time, so we’ll make sure we blood in a few younger players before the end of the season.”
The youth team host second-placed Luton Town next week. Tommy Curry and Liam Cross scored in a 2-2 draw away to the Hatters in November.