Salford boss Graham Alexander felt his side learned a harsh lesson before fighting back to salvage a 2-2 home draw against Exeter.
The Ammies had the dream start when former Rochdale striker Ian Henderson hooked in after just two minutes.
But the visitors found their feet, Matt Jay equalising before Joe Randall gave them the lead in an impressive spell.
Salford saved a point through Ash Hunter midway through a much-improved second half.
”In the first half we didn’t do anything it requires to win a game of football and were deservedly behind at half time, “ said Alexander.
“It was a massive lesson in humility, work ethic and courage. Maybe the early goal made us think it would be easy and we we could just take our foot off the pedal and take a backwards step.
“It was nowhere near the level we require this season and nowhere near the level the players are capable of. We have to be honest that the first half was nowhere near. ”
Alexander made one change at half-time and used two more subs soon after.
He added: “I’ll be honest I felt like making the changes after 25 minutes, the goals were coming, it was plain to see.
“You want to give the players the chance to grow into the game. I could have taken any of our players off, apart from the keeper, at half time. We have a good bench and I decided to use it as early as I could.
“We could not continue to have the performance we were having. It was about the basics and we have to learn very quickly that nobody is going to give us anything, and we have to earn every single inch of that pitch. “
Exeter manager Matt Taylor says his young side will benefit from the experience.
“I’m pleased with the result given what happened after two minutes, but then after we got a foothold and started playing our football I’m slightly disappointed, “ he said.
“We just couldn’t really hold on or deal with their physicality at the top end of the pitch, and they got a platform off the back of that.
“We had five debuts so credit to them, some really young kids in there so that was a positive.
“We have to keep believing we will create opportunities and keep believing that we have players capable of scoring or threatening their goal. When you are a young kid sometimes you pass the buck. I want to keep these kids believing that they can make the difference. “