Swansea City Under-23s coach Gary Richards has hailed the efforts of his players after their Premier League Cup adventure came to an end against Everton on Saturday.
The young Swans were beaten 2-0 in the semi-finals at the Liberty Stadium – ending their hopes of reaching the final for a third consecutive year.
Fraser Hornby was on target in the first half before Bassala Sambou put the game to bed with 16 minutes remaining.
The visitors, who were recently crowned Premier League 2 Division One champions, remained on course for the league-and-cup double ahead of facing Newcastle United in next week’s final.
Nevertheless, despite the disappointment, Richards is confident the young Swans will be better for the experience.
“It’s been a good run. Getting to the semi-finals three years running is a brilliant achievement,” the under-23s coach said.
“Effort-wise, I can’t fault the players. After 70 minutes, we were still in the game and competing with Everton. That is a huge positive.
“The other is that the players will learn loads from this experience. They’re disappointed but will be better because of it.
“Everton had a little bit more experience and, if you look at their record this season, they don’t concede many goals.
“Physically, they had a couple of years on us and are very well-organised. When that is the case, we need to be a bit better on the ball than we were today.”
The young Swans’ hopes were further hampered as they were forced to make all three substitutions before half-time following injuries to Mason Jones-Thomas, Ben Cabango and Marc Walsh.
Richards believes his side struggled to build any momentum as a result.
“I don’t think I’ve ever come across that before,” he added. “The biggest problem is that it disrupts your rhythm.
“While we didn’t keep the ball that well, we must take into account that we had to make three changes.
“Then, when you need fresh legs towards the end of the game, you can’t make any changes.”