Dave Jones expressed his pride after Hartlepool United clinched a deserved point against Plymouth Argyle.
Rhys Oates fired Pools in front with his third goal of the season in the 27th minute when he shot high into the net after Luke McCormick had saved from Nathan Thomas.
But the Pilgrims pulled level 15 minutes from time when Matty Kennedy scored a brilliant individual goal.
Plymouth had arrived at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium with the joint highest away win tally in the division but Pools fully earned their point, the second draw they have enjoyed against the automatic
"Plymouth are a strong side, smarting from their midweek result but I thought we dealt with it," he said.
"We were playing side at the top of the league fighting to get out of the division.
"Our team is a team of youngsters and I have nothing but admiration for the lads.
"We had to earn the right to play but we got stronger and were unfortunate perhaps not to win it at the end."
Jones was a bit disappointed with the Argyle equaliser, Kennedy being shown the inside, the on-loan Cardiff City midfieldeer curling a beauty into the top-left corner of Joe Fryer's net.
However, overall, the Pools boss was happy with the effort and application of his team.
"We got done by a goal which was preventable, allowing a right footer to come inside and shoot," said Jones
"I could nit-pick about the goal but all the things we are trying to introduce they are trying to do.
"I thought every single one of the players stepped up to the plate.
"You could tell by the crowd reaction that they saw that as well."