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That sent the game to penalties, but City’s fate was sealed as a win in 90 minutes was needed to progress to the next round and Francis admitted the late drama was a bitter pill to swallow.
“We were devastated at the end of the game,” he revealed.
“We go one down, Charlie [Oliver] gets a red card and then Tom Dele-Bashiru goes off injured and we’re down to nine men.
“We showed a lot of heart to go 2-1 ahead but in the end it’s a lack of communication that’s let us down.
“It felt like a lot of decisions went against us. I didn’t think it was a sending off and we should have had a penalty.
“We can’t make excuses and we did well to get back into it but we’ve thrown it away at the end and that’s disappointing.”
It was the centre-half’s stunning free kick – dispatched into the top corner from 25 yards – which gave City a glimmer of hope and he was pleased to see his work on the training ground pay dividends.
Equally impressive was the young Blues commitment to play football and not adopt a more direct approach when chasing the game and that's something that won’t be changing.
“The manager said he was proud of the way we played,” Francis added.
“We’re disappointed but there’s lots of positives, like the fight we showed to get back in the game.
“We showed a lot of courage [to not go direct] and we want to keep playing the right way. It nearly paid off tonight.”
With City’s exit confirmed, the Checkatrade Trophy campaign ends with two draws and a defeat.
For many of Simon Davies’ squad it offered a first foray into first team football and for Francis the chance to test himself against League One and Two sides was definitely worthwhile.
“It’s been a great experience," reflected the 18-year-old.
“We’ve learnt you can’t make any mistakes at this level because you get punished straight away.
“We’ve learnt quickly from that if we come back next year we’ll know what we need to do better.”
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