Bolton Wanderers Under-21s battled well but had nothing to show for their efforts as they lost to Sheffield United on Tuesday afternoon.
The young Whites hit the woodwork twice and were denied by Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale repeatedly after falling behind to Jake Wright’s early header in an action-packed first half.
Shea Gordon doubled the hosts’ lead shortly after the restart to secure the result, leaving Bolton to rue missed opportunities at Bramall Lane.
Tom Walked started for Wanderers as they faced the Blades at Bramall Lane, while Alex Finney captained the young Whites.
Elsewhere Jamie Thomas and Jordan Lussey both returned from injury, while there was also a starting berth for goalkeeper Harry Campbell.
Wanderers started brightly and had to wait just five minutes for their opening shot on goal as Alex Perry saw a fierce drive deflected behind before Chris Cvetko headed over from the resulting corner.
Soon after, Tom Walker held off three challenges before powering into the penalty area and playing a one-two with George Newell, only to see his effort saved by Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and the assistant referee’s flag raised for offside.
However, starting from the resulting free-kick, the Blades went up the other end to score from their very next attack as Jake Wright provided the finishing touch to Alex Brown’s near post cross.
The hosts could have doubled their lead midway through the half as Kimarni Smith found himself clean-through on goal after shaking off Alex Finney’s challenge.
However, Harry Campbell was quick off his line and stood tall to deny the forward on the edge of the area.
Responding well, the young Whites had only goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and the woodwork to curse for not levelling the scores before the break as they went close on numerous occasions.
Moments after falling behind, Newell was unfortunate not to net an immediate equaliser as his rising effort was tipped behind by the Blades goalkeeper, with Jamie Thomas heading narrowly wide from the resulting corner.
Newell was denied again by Ramsdale soon after as his angled drive from an acute angle was tipped behind as Bolton continued to press forward.
Chris Cvetko was desperately unlucky not to find the back of the net on the half-hour mark as Ramsdale got the faintest of touches onto his swerving 30-yard piledriver, tipping it onto the crossbar in the process.
Thomas found himself one-on-one minutes later, but Ramsdale once again came out on top as he got two strong hands to the Wales youth international’s effort as he went for power over placement.
The Trotters were denied by the woodwork once again soon after as Newell hit the inside of the post after connecting with Callum Spooner’s low cross, before Ramsdale recovered quickly to keep out Cvetko’s effort on the rebound.
Retaining possession, Thomas headed wide from the resulting cross back into the box as Wanderers went in at the break a goal behind.
The Whites were soon made to rue their missed opportunities as Sheffield United doubled their lead quickly after the restart.
Finding space on the edge of the area, Shea Gordon beat Campbell with a powerful rising strike into the top corner.
The Blades could have added to the score further just before the hour-mark only for Nat Phillips to block Connor Hall’s stinging close-range effort, with Campbell getting across to keep out the rebound.
Bolton’s first opening following the break fell to Walker as he tried his luck after finding space inside the area, firing across goal only to be denied by Ramsdale.
Forwards Alex Samizadeh and Enock Likoy-Elumba were introduced to the action as the half wore on, alongside Jordan Grant, with the Trotters looking to find a way to halve the deficit.
Phillips went close after rising highest to connect with a Walker free-kick, but with Ramsdale once more on hand to make the save, diving low to palm away.
Late on Samizadeh was stopped in his tracks when well-placed after being deemed offside, and with little time left on the clock, Wanderers slipped to defeat at Bramall Lane.