Mark Birch was frustrated with Carlisle United’s performance despite the heartbreaking nature of the Blues’ FA Youth Cup exit last night.

United’s under-18s lost 5-3 on penalties to Oldham after a dramatic 4-4 draw at Brunton Park.

It was a hugely entertaining and eventful spectacle – but coach Birch felt Carlisle had not reached their normal standards in the first round tie.

“If you’re a neutral you probably go away thinking that’s what the FA Youth Cup is all about,” he said.

“You do want to see two teams slogging it out, and I can’t complain about the effort from the lads. The players on both teams have been a credit to the club they play for.

“Unfortunately we’ve come out on the wrong side of the result.

“We ask them to give everything but what they have to do is get the balance of that alongside producing a little bit of quality. We didn’t quite get there so the overall performance dropped below the level we expect.

“We don’t feel as if we did ourselves credit with the way we went about the game. It’s probably the first time this season where we haven’t had control of a game and it probably shocked the lads a little bit.

"The positive that’ll come out of it is if we learn from these mistakes and move on quickly.”

It was an action-packed game which saw United lead three times in normal time before having to come from behind themselves in extra-time.

There were mixed emotions for highly-rated striker Sam Fishburn, who scored twice for the Cumbrians but also had a penalty saved in the first half, and was then the only player unsuccessful from the spot in the shoot-out.

News and Star: United's players watch the shoot-out (photo: Barbara Abbott)United's players watch the shoot-out (photo: Barbara Abbott)

“He’s had the best chances, scored from two of them, and his emotions will be up and down,” Birch said. “All he can do is roll up his sleeves and move on quickly.

“You can’t dwell on these games, but there has to be an element of understanding the defeat and why it happened.”

Fishburn’s header, Charlie Watt’s excellent free-kick and Jack Ellis’s close-range effort all gave Carlisle the lead in the 90 minutes but Oldham pegged United back each time.

Fishburn had also seen a penalty saved in the first half, while both sides struck the woodwork.

The most dramatic Oldham equaliser came in the sixth minute of added time when Latics goalkeeper Luke Southerington headed home a free-kick.

Oldham then went ahead in extra-time before Fishburn struck again to take it to penalties.

“We had a lot of opportunities to kill the game off,” Birch added. “The penalty miss in the first half could have put us two up, and the game changes from incidents like that.

“Penalties are penalties, you can’t blame Sam for that, but we had other chances, as did they.

“For us it’s really disappointing because one of our strengths is controlling games and we never felt as if we were anywhere near doing that.

“Everyone feels deflated because this is an important competition. This is a competition the boys want to do well in and, as we’ve said, one of our targets is to get through, and we’ve fallen short in that.

“We normally pass the ball better, we defend better and we have more balance when we attack. Every time we attacked in this game we felt vulnerable and that’s something we’ll need to remind them of.

“It’s not the result we wanted but we now have to use it as a learning curve for the rest of the season.”

It all unfolded in front of Keith Millen, hours after his appointment as United’s first team manager had been confirmed. He watched from the directors’ box and Birch confirmed the 55-year-old had already spoken to Blues staff.

“We met him, but only briefly, because we’ve been preparing for [this game],” he said.

“He’s had a good chance to see what we’re all about and I think it’s disappointing that we didn’t show the kind of quality that we’ve shown so far this season.

“It was a chance for the lads to play in front of the new manager and, come the end of the game, whose name is he going to be talking about?

“For a neutral it was probably a good game of football but it’s not what we want to see.”