COLCHESTER United’s painful FA Youth Cup exit can act as an important learning curve for the club’s youngsters, according to U’s under-18 lead coach Liam Bailey.

They knocked out of this season’s competition at the second-round stage after losing 4-3 to Oxford United at the JobServe Community Stadium.

Goals from Jake Hutchinson, Andre Hasanally and Diogo Freitas-Gouveia had helped Colchester stay in the tie, despite the second-half dismissal of Marley Marshall-Miranda.

However, they conceded a goal deep into stoppage-time to bow out of the competition in agonising fashion.

Bailey said: “There’s mixed emotions – any time you lose a game like that it’s tough but it’s about learning from the experience and taking it into their careers.

“The good thing was that the first-team manager (John McGreal) and Steve Ball were there watching and they’re very good at putting young players into their first team.

“The lads were gutted after the game but eventually, they will see the bigger picture.

“We all know that this is a club that prides itself on bringing through their own players.

“They know that if they are good enough and they work hard enough and the manager thinks they are ready, then can make the step up.

“It was a rollercoaster of a game; it was a big occasion for the players and the FA Youth Cup is the pinnacle of a youth-team player’s season.

“I think it was a feeling of disappointment overall at not being able to hold on to get the win but there were some very good moments.

“We came from behind twice and showed great character and even after we went down to ten men, it looked like we might nick it.

“It wasn’t meant to be and the mistakes we made are what cost us, in the end.”

A number of Colchester’s under-18 team have played for Richard Hall’s under-23 side this season while Hasanally, who played in the FA Youth Cup tie, made his professional debut in August.

Bailey said: “The boys have been playing some good stuff, this season.

“A lot of the boys in the under-18 squad have had time playing for the under-23s, this season and last.

“Billy Cracknell and Al-Amin Kazeem have been playing at Maldon and Tiptree, this season which has been a great experience for them.

“In addition, Jake Hutchinson and Diogo Freitas-Gouveia have spent some time at Brightlingsea.

“We’re trying to get them as much experience as possible – we try and do that as a club.”