Paul Tisdale saw his game-plan go out the window after just nine minutes of Tuesday's Devon derby with Torquay United, but said his players came off at full-time believing they should have won at Plainmoor.
The Gulls edged the first half and went in front through Rene Howe's penalty on 15 minutes, but Exeter had the majority of the play after half-time and grabbed a deserved equaliser when Alan Gow scored a spot-kick of his own.
The Grecians played for 81 minutes without an out-and-out striker after John O'Flynn limped off with a hamstring injury and their lack or firepower was evident, with the Grecians struggling to get bodies in the penalty box.
Tisdale said: "What can you do? We worked on things Tuesday afternoon and it was always going to be a case that Alan Gow, Matt Oakley and Jimmy Keohane would come on in the second half and I was hoping they would come on at 0-0, or 1-0 up.
"I certainly wasn't planning to play Alan Gow as a lone striker, but you have to adapt as a team.
"John O'Flynn getting injured is a big blow for us because he is on top form and, with Jamie [Cureton] being suspended, it meant we were short in that area. We had to adapt and, unfortunately, we didn't do very well in the ten minutes after we made that change.
"We became a bit disjointed, but you are not going to go a whole game of a whole season where the players are perfect in everything you do. We weren't quite right, but we got to half-time and sorted it out."
Gow's half-time introduction changed the flow of the game in Exeter's favour and it was he that won and then scored the penalty seven minutes from time. But, after Gow's equaliser, Tisdale said there was disappointment amongst his players that they did not kick on and win the game.
"The team were brilliant in trying to play on that pitch in the second half," he said. "I said to them don't chase the game, don't try and score in the first minute, because you will score when the opportunity presents itself.
"I wanted the players to get themselves into the game and enjoy a spell of sustained pressure and stay in their half. The players did that and I thought the midfield three [Tommy Doherty, Scot Bennett and Oakley] were excellent.
"The players came in feeling as though they could have won it and I agree with them, in a way. I'm pleased with how we got the point, but there is a part of us that thinks we could have won the game.
"I think Martin [Ling] will feel frustrated as well. I think their frustration is that they were hanging on, but they were hanging on from the first minute of the second half. I mean, the goalkeeper has taken his time over a kick and, if that's what you want to do, then good on you, get on with it. But then you pay with five minutes to go.
"They're a good team working hard for their manager and they will think they earned something. We feel we earned something as well."
The win extended Exeter's unbeaten run to four matches and keeps them in third place in npower League Two. Next up is the trip to Bristol Rovers on Saturday, and Tisdale is delighted with the progress his side is making.
"It was a good game and a really good performance by the team," he added. "We are getting stronger mentally, we have a lot more resolve and our decision making at a goal down was very good.
"We played our tactics really well, the players did what they were asked to do and they made lots of good decisions.
"I'm very pleased because we have come back from a goal down against a team that was intent on slowing things down and hanging on and on a glue-pot of a pitch."
The Grecians' first team were not the only Exeter side in action on Tuesday. A youthful City XI overcame Willand Rovers to win through to the quarter-finals of the Devon FA St Luke's Challenge Cup.
Exeter fell behind when Lloyd Beech put Willand in front on 25 minutes and they then had Josh Wadham sent off for a foul just moments after he came on as a substitute.
However, Matt Jay ensured the game finished level with the equaliser 15 minutes from full-time.
The Grecians then scored all five of their spot-kicks as they won the shoot-out 5-4 to reach the last eight.