Relieved boss Jos Luhukay accused his Sheffield Wednesday players of showing their opponents "too much respect" before the Owls hit back for a 2-2 draw to stretch their unbeaten Championship run to four games.
Wednesday were hit by an opening blitz from Stoke City and fell 2-0 behind at Hillsborough until goals from Marco Matias and Barry Bannan, who struck a stunning late free-kick, salvaged a point.
Luhukay, who praised the home fans for sticking by their side, was delighted with the heart his team showed to recover from their early setbacks, but said they should have started the match in a better frame of mind.
"It was a very tough game," he said. "I think the first 25 minutes were very difficult for us. Stoke play a fantastic game. On the ball, they have many possibilities to create chances.
"We had too much respect (for them). You can have respect for the game, and that is normal, but once the referee blows the whistle you have to have confidence in yourself and each other.
"For 25 minutes, we were not on the field."
The manager saluted the response of the Hillsborough crowd when Wednesday were trailing 2-0 against an outfit who were in the Premier League last term.
"After Stoke's second goal, the fans stay completely behind our team," he said. "That helped to keep the players 'loose' so they can come back with character and hard fight to draw 2-2. They worked unbelievably hard for that.
"At the end, you are happy you have got 2-2 against a very good opponent. Stoke had good chances in the second half to get the third goal."