Micky Adams heaped praise on his battling Port Vale side as they climbed to the top of League Two with a 3-2 win at Dagenham.
But Adams stressed the hard work has yet to come with the Valiants keen to stay above fellow title-chasers Gillingham.
"It's great to be top of the table, the lads deserve it for their hard work," praised Adams. "But there's a long way to go and we've got to keep maintaining the same high standards I expect.
"The lads were excellent but I was disappointed we didn't put the game to bed in the second half.
"At 3-1 the game was never finished and them scoring again late on did make it harder than we'd have liked, but we showed a lot of character to stick in there and make sure of the points."
First-half goals from Tom Pope, Jennison Myrie-Williams and Louis Dodds were enough for maximum points, although a penalty from Sam Williams and an 83rd-minute goal from Scott Doe made for an interesting finish.
But Adams was adamant his side deserved the points and was understandably boosted by a second successive league victory following Boxing Day's 2-1 triumph over Rotherham.
"We've had a good couple of victories, it's just what we needed because we've got a lot of tough games to come," he added.
"I'm delighted with the players, though, they've given me everything they've got and we've scored some great goals.
"It was a great start with the early goals but we never killed of the game and, fair play to Dagenham, they kept working hard for the equaliser."