Southampton Under-18s coach Paul Hardyman spoke of his pride in his team, following their narrow FA Youth Cup exit to Arsenal.
Saints fell foul to an 80th minute solo stunner from Arsenal midfielder Matthew Dennis, despite having chances during a well contested cup tie at Meadow Park.
The visitors hit the post inside the first two minutes, with Marco Rus and Caleb Watts linking well as Saints started in the ascendancy.
Both sides had chances, but ultimately it took a moment of individual brilliance from the Arsenal substitute to settle the tie.
“I’m really proud of the lads,” said Hardyman. “They’ve done a great job. Just disappointing to concede as we did, especially after the way we’ve passed the ball.
“I have to say I felt we were the better team on the day. Especially first half I thought we were excellent, I thought we were really, really good.”
“I think half time we could have done without just because we were really on the front foot, playing some lovely football. We just didn’t really kill them off when we had good chances.
“After 50 seconds or whatever it was [for example] when Caleb Watts hit the post, we’d been working on stuff in training which was nice and straight away it almost paid off.
“So on another day that goes in and we’re 1-0 up at half time and the game is a different game. But I can only say I was really proud of the lads who I thought were fantastic tonight.
“I think coming to Arsenal, which is another fantastic academy like ours. We’ve come into their ground and gave them a footballing lesson I feel.
Paul HardymanI have to say I felt we were the better team on the day. Especially first half I thought we were excellent. I thought we were really, really good."
Southampton FC Under-18s Coach
“They [the players] take it a lot more seriously. They shouldn’t do but they do. They find that these are the big games of the season, in the FA Youth Cup, because they’re playing under lights at little stadiums and big stadiums. It’s something we want to do well in.
“So it is a disappointment that we’re out of it but I still stick with what I’ve said before, our job is to get our players into the first team.
“We would’ve loved to have had an FA Cup run but that’s not happening. Our job now is to keep working with these players, keep improving them and develop them into first-team players for Southampton Football Club.”