Ange Postecoglou has defended his decision to make nine changes after Tottenham suffered a penalty shootout defeat at Fulham in the English League Cup second round.
Spurs entered the contest following back-to-back wins in the Premier League, which had generated a feelgood factor around the club despite the departure of all-time top-scorer Harry Kane to Bayern Munich on the eve of the new season.
Only Micky van de Ven and Richarlison retained their starting berths from the win at Bournemouth and while Tottenham improved from a sluggish start at Craven Cottage, penalties were required after a 1-1 draw and Davinson Sanchez failed to score from 12 yards to hand the visitors a 5-3 spot-kick loss.
It inflicted a painful dent to the momentum built during the first couple of months of the Postecoglou era but the former Socceroos boss pointed to the need for players to get minutes when quizzed on his changes.
"Obviously disappointed with the outcome, getting knocked out of the cup," the Australian said after Richarlison's second-half header cancelled out Van de Ven's own-goal after 17 minutes.
"We weren't at our fluent best, particularly early on which was not surprising considering the amount of changes I made. A lot of the boys tonight, it was their first start of the season.
"There are many different ways to grow as a team and we showed some real character."
It's the first time the four-time winners have lost in the second round since an embarrassing defeat to lower-league Grimsby Town in 2005.
"From my perspective, we're very much at the discovery stage so we need to find out and give the players the opportunity to contribute, because that's why they're here," the former Celtic manager added.
"They're not just here to make up the numbers. They keep working hard and deserved the opportunity to go out and play tonight."
Five Premier League teams avoided upsets against lower-league opponents elsewhere on Tuesday night.
Bournemouth beat Swansea City 3-2 and Crystal Palace came from behind to defeat Championship side Plymouth Argyle 4-2.
Wolves enjoyed a 5-0 win over Blackpool, Luton Town held on to beat Gillingham 3-2 and Brentford won 3-0 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Newport County.
Elsewhere, Socceroo Riley McGree and fellow substitute Morgan Rogers scored stoppage-time goals to steer Middlesbrough into round three with a 3-1 comeback win at League One Bolton Wanderers.
McGree had only been on the pitch five minutes before his superb low left-foot finish, before Rogers completed a deserved win for the Championship side who also had Australian Tom Glover in goal.
Wrexham, owned by Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, lost 4-3 on penalties to fellow League Two outfit Bradford City.
Salford City, owned by Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and other members of Manchester United's Class of '92, beat Leeds United 9-8 in a shootout in the biggest shock of the night to reach the third round for the first time in their 83-year history.