'We're proud, but also gutted' - Atay on Ipswich Town's FA Youth Cup semi-final loss to Liverpool
- Credit: Ross Halls
Ipswich Town Under-18s manager Adem Atay said he couldn't help but feel 'gutted' after his side's superb FA Youth Cup journey came to an end with a 2-1 semi-final defeat to Liverpool at Portman Road tonight.
The Blues, who had knocked out Fulham, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United on the way to the final four, took the lead right on half-time through Edwin Agbaje's header.
Mateusz Musialowski equalised via a big deflection though, before substitute Melkamu Frauendorf netted an 81st minute winner.
"The performance itself we're disappointed with," said Atay. "The result looks quite nice in that it was only 2-1, but we haven't been able to replicate the performances we've had in the previous games. I think there's more disappointment in the changing room because of that.
"They gave everything they've got. I'll give them credit for that.
"This is part of the journey and learning curve that they are going through. We're going to have to get over this very, very quickly.
"Elite performers, which we're aiming to be, have to bounce back very quickly because there's always something going on in the next days and weeks.
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"We've got two semi-finals still to play for at 18s and 23s level.
"We've spoken in there about being proud. The club's very proud to have got to this level. There were no expectations on the group to get to a FA Youth Cup semi-final.
"We are the only EFL club to get to the semi-finals this year, we're the only Cat Two club to get to the semi-finals, we're the only team that came in at round one to get to the semi-final.Liverpool were averaging four goals a game.
"So you look at things like that and feel really pleased.
"The biggest compliment I got was from Alex Inglethorpe, Liverpool's academy manager, who just told me 'we were worried about you before the game and you played well on the night'. Albeit we are not pleased with our performance.
"I said beforehand that if you can guarantee me that four or five of these players are going to make our first team better in the future and push the club on to bigger and better things but we were guaranteed a loss tonight then I would have taken it.
"Tonight we are gutted. They say never get too high or ow, but they doesn't sit well with some of us! We're going to have to take this on the chin. We've been gracious with our wins in the previous games and we'll be gracious in defeat tonight."
He continued: "It is a missed opportunity because we were in the game and learning 1-0. That's something we hadn't experienced, against a team like this, at half-time.
"Credit to Liverpool, they were the better team on the night and they deserved to go through.
"It's a young team. One thing we haven't mentioned much on this journey is that we've had four of our second years, who potentially could have been starting tonight, out injured. That does make a difference. There is a two, three year gap in some cases of physical development. We had two Under-16s starting in the front line. We had another Under-16 come on. We had first years out there.
"Hopefully, looking to next season, they can use this experience that they've had and go on another journey."
Town's Under-18s now travel to Wigan on Saturday for the semi-final of their league programme, while Kieron Dyer's Under-23s then travel to Sheffield United on Monday for their equivalent.
"We've got to move on quickly," said Atay. "We want to go and perform and win on Saturday. We want to go and perform and win on Monday and represent the club in finals.
"It's not finished. Wigan will be looking at this thinking 'they've lost, they'll be down in the dumps' and thinking they can walk all over us. Well that's not going to happen. We'll be going there and be giving everything we've got. It'll be the same on Monday.
"If you'd have said to me at the star of the season that our Under-18s and Under-23s would be in three semi-finals I'd have said 'wow, what a journey we are going to go on'.
"There was a glimmer of hope that a final was on the horizon, but on the night it wasn't to be."