Northampton Town Under 18s lost 3-0 away to Stevenage in the EFL Youth Alliance League South East on Saturday morning.
The young Cobblers struggled to make much of an impact on the game, which took a while to spark into life.
The best moments of Cobblers action in the opening 20 minutes came when Rico Duggan’s low edge of the area free-kick was blocked and Reuben Wyatt’s long-range volley flew wide.
Stevenage came closest late in this period when captain Owen Cochrane’s whipped wide set-piece was brilliantly tipped over by James Dadge.
The hosts threatened again twice before the half-an-hour mark, Noah Mosanja and Theo Alexandrou both firing low shots wide within a few minutes of each other.
Their pressure finally told soon after when the latter cut inside and impressively curled in off the far post to put his side ahead.
Harrison Smith hit the woodwork from a deep corner as Stevenage continued to push forward before the break, and their advantage was doubled less than a minute later when Alexandrou cut inside and found the top corner in a similar fashion to his first goal.
The Cobblers needed to respond and almost made the perfect start to the second half, as within the first minute Kiantay Licorish-Mullings’ throw-in was flicked over goalkeeper Rylee Mitchell by one of his defenders before being hooked off the line.
They nearly found a way back into the contest again 10 minutes later when substitute Reece Irwin charged down Mitchell’s clearance, but the ball agonisingly stayed out of the Stevenage net.
Another Licorish-Mullings long throw led to another Northampton chance after the hour, as the ball was cleared to the edge from where Kai O’Keeffe half-volleyed wide through a crowd of bodies.
Alexandrou had two opportunities to complete his hat-trick at the midpoint of the second period, but he placed two shots wide of the far post after being played in behind twice.
The goalscorer curled straight at Dadge and Smith headed straight into the Cobblers ’keeper’s arms as the hosts searched for a third going into the final quarter-of-an-hour.
It came a few minutes later when Smith nodded across goal and this time into the back of the net from Sam Tinubu’s looped cross.
Tinubu was shown a red card in the final few moments of added time for his part in an off-the-pitch incident, but it was too late in the day for the dismissal to have any impact on the result as the youth team fell to defeat.
Shane Goddard’s side host Luton Town next week, with a David Joyce Cup tie on Thursday against ON Chenecks before then.
Cobblers: James Dadge, Brad Smith-Howes (sub Josh Rayfield 76), Kiantay Licorish-Mullings, Josh Tomlinson, Ayo Lekuti (sub Fin Amidi 60), Jamari Hart, Reuben Wyatt (sub Leo Jenkins 82), Dylan Hill, Jacob Scott (sub Reece Irwin 53), Rico Duggan, Kai O’Keeffe
Sub not used: Marcus Bald