Following our U21s' 2-1 defeat against Birmingham City in the Professional Development League on Friday afternoon, Tom Harban admitted he was disappointed to lose given the young Reds' dominance of the encounter
Despite taking the lead after half an hour through Aiden Marsh, the visitors mounted a second half turnaround to grab all three points in South Yorkshire.
"I've just said to the lads, I'm gutted for them," he opened. "We should have been out of sight with the clear-cut chances that we had in the first half and the two, pretty much, open goals in the second half.
"They're the fine margins. You don't take them and you're 1-0 up in a game, the opposition is always going to have a chance to get back in it. We give the ball away, they break and score. All of a sudden it is game on again. It's a bitter pill to take."
Our young Reds were in control for large spells of the match and more than held their own despite a much-changed side named to face the Blues.
Harban stressed that the game would be a huge learning curve for his team and to take the positives from a tough afternoon for the Reds.
"It's a group of players that haven't played much football together," he admitted. "You've got Charlie coming back for the first time in a long time, Kareem coming back, Marshy coming back in.
"Then we're bringing the younger lads on who have done brilliantly this season. It's a bit mix and match at the minute but I thought the level of performance on the whole was good. We had a spell in the second half where we were massively under the cosh and the lads dug in. They had to defend properly, I thought they did really well."
Winfield made his long-awaited comeback after a lengthy 13-month absence with an ACL injury, along with Hassan-Smith and Marsh who also returned to the fray after a while out from the action.
The U21s boss was extremely pleased with each of the returning players' performances and how well they got back into the swing of things on Friday afternoon.
"I thought physically, he looked strong," Harban commented on Winfield. "He was limited to half a game but he looked strong physically. Technically he's very good. I think it's just him getting used to the full dimensions of a pitch again with 22 players on it. That will come in time - he's looking fit, he's looking strong. I'm pleased with his first half performance.
"The front two worked their socks off for us. We ask a lot of them at the Club, in terms of setting off the press and being aggressive from the front. They took on the information, they caused Birmingham a lot of problems between them.
"Not just 'Marshy's' goal, but a couple of other good chances in the first half. He's a bit disappointed that he didn't score the one-on-one with the 'keeper, but, that will come - again, he's been out a long time."