Milton Keynes Dons Under-18s lost 1-0 to Plymouth Argyle in their penultimate Youth Alliance Merit League fixture at Woughton-on-the-Green on Saturday afternoon.
The Dons were edged out by their well-drilled Plymouth counterparts with a 36th-minute goal the difference between the two sides.
The solitary goal came after Dons defender Jamal Sule misjudged a bouncing ball on the edge of the area and was beaten to it by a Plymouth player.
Dons keeper Alfie Jones came out in a bid to narrow the angle but the ball was squared to the Pilgrims number nine who slid into an unguarded net. 1-0.
Against a well organised Plymouth side, the Dons started below par and struggled to impose themselves on the match in the opening quarter.
The Dons were mainly restricted to long-range efforts in the first half with James Holmes and Jenson Wright both having shots that end narrowly wide of the target.
The Dons started the second half at a higher tempo and created clearer openings including one in the 50th-minute when a cross from the left found captain Jack Hourican-Harvey whose goalbound header was blocked and cleared to safety.
Another good chance came the Dons way just after the hour mark when Hourican-Harvey glanced his header wide from a cross whipped in from the right.
As the game approached the three-quarter mark, Matt Sorinola produced a good driving run into the box, but he was forced wide and could only manage to prod the ball off the near post and into the keeper’s arms.
A couple of minutes later the visitors produced a smart move which led to one of their team being put in behind the Dons defence, but keeper Jones showed smart reflexes to make a good close range save from a one-on-one situation.
Despite some late pressure, which coincided with hailstones falling from the sky, the Dons could not find a goal, and lost narrowly to a visiting team who had a ten hour round trip to play the fixture.
After the match Dons Under-18s Manager Edu Rubio said: “It was one of those games where we did not start with the right intensity and application.
“We let them settle and it took us about half an hour to find our level. The goal was a genuine mistake but otherwise, it was an even contest against arguably the best team in the merit league.
“Going forward hopefully the players will understand the importance of a good start and being on it from the first whistle."
MK Dons: Jones, Sule (Brennan h-t), Leach, Ackom, Hourican-Harvey (capt), Davies, Deale, Robinson, Holmes, Wright (Rowley46), Sorinola.
Subs not used: Carter, Crane.
Booked: Ackom 30, Hourican-Harvey 67.