Joe Dunne paid tribute to his Colchester United players after a stirring second-half display almost salvaged them a draw at leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, following their 4-2 defeat.
The U's trailed 3-0 at Molineux at half-time but first-ever Colchester goals from Alex Gilbey and David Wright got them right back into the contest.
Substitute Freddie Sears came tantalisingly close to equalising with four minutes to go when his shot came back off the inside of the post, before substitute Nouha Dicko wrapped up the points for Wolves in stoppage-time.
Dunne said: "I have to pay great credit to the players.
"It was a brave response in the second half and they really dug deep and showed great character.
"Freddie Sears hit the post to make it 3-3 and we were going for it at the end and left ourselves exposed at the back.
"I think 4-2 is probably harsh - I know they had a lot of chances but it's not my fault they missed them.
"You can do all of the preparation and motivational talks you want - you can't give a goal away after 50 seconds.
"It was a joke goal and it should have been dealt with.
"It was 2-0 not long after that and at half-time, I just said "listen, they're top of the league for a reason".
"Anybody here in the ground and maybe even some of our fans might have been thinking it would be six but the players have gone out and scored two great goals in the second half.
"They dug in and it gives us great momentum going into Saturday (against Notts County)."
For a full match report and pictures from the U's game at Wolves, see Wednesday's Daily Gazette.