Angelo Alessio felt his players showed character after Kilmarnock came from behind to snatch victory over Welsh minnows Connah’s Quay with two late goals.
The Italian was heading for an embarrassing defeat in his first match as Killie manager as the Nomads grabbed the lead in their Europa League qualifier at Rhyl after 75 minutes.
But the Ladbrokes Premiership side, who had dominated possession but struggled to break down their resilient hosts, rallied late on to secure a 2-1 win.
Eamonn Brophy levelled from the penalty spot eight minutes from time before Stuart Findlay headed the winner in stoppage time.
Alessio said: “We knew that it would be a tough game and it was. We were ready for this game. After their goal we had a good reaction, a big reaction and in the end we won the game.
“I watched a lot of games last season and I knew these players had great character. Today they showed this because it wasn’t easy.”
Connah’s Quay played in the mould of their manager, the former Manchester City defender Andy Morrison. They sat deep and tackled hard, and Alessio admitted his side found it hard to impose themselves.
Alessio said: “They played their football in long passes. We play another football. It was difficult because they had 10 players behind the ball all game, but at the end of the game we came to win and we did.
“But this is only the first leg. We have to play another next week. We have to prepare well for the game because we didn’t finish it here. I think we can play better.”
The relief of Kilmarnock supporters, back in Europe for the first time in 18 years, was clear as they let off a flare after Brophy’s equaliser.
Morrison felt defeat was harsh on his side after a determined effort.
“It’s incredibly tough to take,” he said. “We went toe to toe with them.
“Everything worked and they ran out of ideas. It took a couple of crazy decisions by us.
“The first one was the penalty that gave them a foothold back in the game.
“What’s important then is you don’t lose the game. We needed to show composure late on and we didn’t. Small details cost you against good teams.”