Paul Tisdale has told his Exeter players to 'toughen up' after a 1-0 defeat at Burton left the Grecians with only one point from their first three games.
Stuart Beavon struck four minutes before the break to secure Burton's fourth league and cup win of the campaign and pile more misery on Tisdale's men.
The downcast City boss said: "We've had three difficult fixtures, but I'm not happy with only point on the board.
"It might be an old fashioned thing to say, but I was looking for a response to what was a clear defeat at Plymouth on Saturday.
"I asked for a hard start to the game. I wanted us to go forward and tackle, but we didn't do it.
"We had a better performance in the second half, but we were a goal down and chasing the game by then.
"I realise that it's only the first couple of weeks of the season, but we're going to have to toughen up and became more clear with the plan.
"Times are tough at the moment, but the same group of players are going to have to brush themselves down and go for the next game."
The Brewers could have been ahead inside two minutes but Christy Pym produced a flying save to keep out a fierce shot by John Mousinho and then held onto a volley from the same player.
Pym produced another outstanding fingertip save to keep out a powerful Lucas Akins header in the 29th minute.
But the teenager was left helpless in the 41st minute when Beavon lashed in a 10-yard shot after the Grecians failed to deal with Callum McFadzean's long throw-in.
Exeter produced a spell of late pressure but Scot Bennett's header was scrambled to safety.
Burton assistant manager Kevin Summerfield said: "I think it was a really good, strong and positive first-half disply by us.
"We attacked and created lots of chances and had their goalie not been required to pull off three or four great saves, I think we would have been away and clear.
"We knew it was going to be a bit more difficult in the second half and they came into the game, while we just couldn't get going.
"But anybody who watched us last season will know about the basis of our game.
"We're probably the best team in this division at winning games when we're not playing well - and you've got to be able to do that if you're going to be promotion candidates.
"To be fair, though, we could have had more goals in the first 45 minutes, which is probably the best half we've played so far this season.
"A couple of the stops were amazing and could have been saves of the season in any division."