Simon Ireland says his Brighton & Hove Albion under-21 side need to perform more consistently following a 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough.
He told seagulls.co.uk, “We didn’t do too badly. We were better in the second-half than we were in the first-half.
“It’s obviously a new experience for the players travelling a long distance and they managed to have a first-team experience, such as travelling on a first-team standard coach, staying overnight and getting used to it all.
“They dealt with that part of it really well, but I said to them it’s about going out there to perform. Once again the preparation was spot on, but it’s then realising that you’ve got to go out and perform at the end of it.
“Once the game settled down we got back into it and then conceded a sloppy goal just before the break. We reorganised at half-time and went out in the second-half and started well and then conceded another sloppy goal almost at the start on the second-half when we had got on the front foot.
“It gave ourselves a mountain to climb to get back into the game really, but credit to the players, they preserved and we got a goal back.
“We have seen the step up in the quality. Going from a category two to a category one games programme is a big step up. We’re still a youngish team and are perhaps more of an under-19 team than an under-21 team, but we can’t make that excuse and we’ve got to be able to compete against any team no matter how old they are.”
The Teesiders took the lead in the 37th minute when Callum Cooke set up Tom McAloon to finish from close range, and Cooke then picked out Andy Halliday for Boro’s second in the 48th minute, with the latter delivering a well-struck drive that beat Albion keeper Josh Smith.
Three minutes later and Albion were back in the game when Jimmy Muitt took advantage of some sloppy defending and fired a low strike down to the right-hand side of keeper Connor Ripley, but the Seagulls could not muster an equaliser as Ireland's men fell to second succesive league defeat.
Albion: Walton; Collar, Rea, Dallison, Hunt; Deen (Hutchinson 53), Harris (Davis 53), Pappoe, Starkey; Muitt, Cole. Subs not used: Smith (GK), Barclay.