Walsall Under 18s began the EFL Youth Alliance season with a 2-0 defeat away to Fleetwood Town on Saturday.
After falling behind early on, the task got even tougher for the Saddlers after Josh Simcox was sent off.
The 10-men put in a spirited display but the hosts put the game to bed in the closing stages to secure the points.
Academy Manager Miguel Llera was pleased with the effort and commitment from his players and felt they were just growing into the game before the red card.
“We conceded after a minute and a half after a deflection but then we started to grow in the game,” Llera said.
“It was difficult conditions, really windy, raining a lot and we struggled to deal with the first match of the season.
“We conceded out of corner, set pieces and they were putting pressure on us and we didn’t defend properly but we started to grow into the game and manage the game better.
“At times we played good football but the game changed when my player didn’t react properly from a provocation from an opposition player and he was sent off.
“We played about 65 minutes with 10 men which was a challenging situation for us but I was really pleased with 10 men on the pitch, they gave everything, we were well organised and we conceded the second after 85 minutes, pretty late in the game.
“I can’t say anything because they showed commitment, desire and some really good individual performances. If we had 11 men on the pitch, the game would be different. I’m pretty optimistic with the team, it’s a really young team – just two second years on the pitch, two 16s as well so a really young squad. I’m really optimistic what is coming in the next few games.”
The Under 18s will play their first home game of the season this Saturday when they take on Carlisle United at Birmingham County FA headquarters.
Kick-off is at 1pm.