Ben Dawson told of his “pride” after Newcastle United's run in the Checkatrade Trophy was brought to an end by Sunderland.
Dawson's Under-21s were beaten 4-0 at the Stadium of Light tonight.
Newcastle had matched the League One club for 45 minutes in the last 16 tie, but their performance unravelled after the break.
Sunderland took control with two goals from set-pieces early in the second half and went on to win comfortably.
Dawson's players, however, were given a standing ovation by United's 2,780-strong travelling support after the game, which followed impressive victories over Doncaster Rovers, Notts County, Grimsby Town and Macclesfield Town.
“I couldn’t be prouder," said coach Dawson. "We’ve more than matched them first half. We could easily have gone in 1-0 up, and came out second half and little fine details in terms of the scrappy own goal and the second one which bounces in off the floor is difficult to take.
"You’ve got a mountain to climb and you’re trying to find a way back into the game.
“In fairness, in terms of the third goal, it’s a great strike. Then you’re opening up even more trying to give the fans something to shout about.
“I’m really proud of the way the lads performed, not just tonight but across the whole competition. It’s been a great experience and one which they’ve thrived on.”
United sold out their ticket allocation for the tie.
On the backing from the Newcastle's travelling fans, Dawson added: "It was terrific. Our fans never seemed to stop (singing). I made sure I went across at the end to thank them for their efforts.
"It was absolutely terrific, and it was a great atmosphere, and hopefully one that the lads can savour. If they get the opportunity again in front of a big crowd, hopefully they'll know how to deal with it."
Meanwhile, captain Owen Bailey said the defeat was "hard to take" given the opposition.
"I think going in at half time we had a massive chance," said the defender. "I think we played some good stuff at times, but then to come out and concede two set-plays at the start of the second half kills you and you've got a mountain to climb from there.
"To be fair, it's not a 4-0 game, but to get beat 4-0, especially here, is really hard to take."