HARTLEPOOL United were today experiencing mixed emotions after their FA Youth Cup exit at Morecambe.
A 3-1 defeat at the Globe Arena saw a brave 10-man effort following the early dismissal of keeper Mark Foden.
But they came away from the seaside frustrated that their elimination was largely self-inflicted.
As soon as Foden saw red they were always up against it.
They pressed, they stifled and they kept the Shrimps defence on their toes all night.
Their efforts merited a place in the next round, but with a numerical advantage it was the hosts who scored three times.
Morecambe defender Tyler Bowman headed in a corner on the cusp of the interval before Tom Woods scored a brace with two one-on-one finishes in the second half as Pools chased the game.
Callam Wood, an ex-English Martyrs pupil, did reduce the deficit late on with a rasping finish but it was too little, too late.
John Hewitson, head of youth at Victoria Park, was left frustrated with the defeat, accepting that the probabilities of advancing were slim once Foden saw red.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” he told SportMail.
“We had Mark sent off in the 17th minute and that set the tone, putting us on the backfoot. There was too much to do to have any genuine hope in getting through.
“We held out until just before half-time but then they scored on the stroke of it.
“If we had taken it to 0-0 at half-time we would have re-grouped but sadly we conceded.
“If we’d had 11 on the pitch I think we would have beaten them. We outplayed them with 10 men but, unfortunately, we let in some cheap goals.”
Chances were aplenty for Pools, Wood seeing an earlier chance hacked off the line.
Brad Walker, a revelation in the first team this season, also had a good opportunity while Connor Smith could not convert either of his one-on-ones.
Sub keeper James Dawson, a member of the U16 side, came on and performed well.
Despite the disappointment, Hewitson backed his players to re-focus their attentions on league matters.
“The game was a lot closer than the scoreline suggests,” he said. “We had them rattled several times.
“Credit to the lads, with 10 men they were terrific and a credit to the club with the way they performed and scrapped.
“They have to apply themselves in the right manner, as push on in the league.”
Pools: Foden, Harbottle, Turner, Neaney, Nellis (Blackford 85), Walker, Green, Bridges, Halpin (Dawson 17), Wood, Smith. Subs not used: Briggs, Turnbull.