Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes had “absolutely no criticism” of his team after they ran out of steam against Livingston.
The Dons’ winless Premiership run at Pittodrie extended to six matches with the 1-1 draw.
However, after Niall McGinn’s volley was cancelled out by the Lions’ Craig Sibbald, McInnes pointed to the Reds’ recent exertions.
They first continued their impressive away run with a 0-0 draw against champions Celtic at Parkhead last weekend, before beating Rangers 2-0 in the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at Ibrox in midweek.
McInnes thought his key players weren’t up to their usual standards against Livi as a result and said: “I do feel players who can make the difference in these types of games were lacking a bit.
“We’ve been here before and will cope with that.
“I’m here to support my players and there’s absolutely no criticism from me about the performance.
“I’ve seen what they’ve put out there in the last few games.
“It’s not easy doing what they’ve done – to take Rangers on at Pittodrie, Celtic at Parkhead and Ibrox in midweek, with the travel and everything else.
“They’ve put so much into and it would’ve been so great to finish with a dour 1-0 win, then giving them that well deserved rest.”
Aberdeen may have a Scottish Cup semi-final against the Hoops to look forward to, but their home form – their last victory at Pittodrie in the Premiership came against Hearts on December 22 – has prevented them competing for the league this term.
Livi’s equaliser just before half-time looked too easy, with a long free-kick forward flicked on by Chris Erskine, before being fired into the Reds’ box by Craig Halkett, where Sibbald was waiting to tap in from close range.
McInnes admits it’s “tough” in the Granite City at the moment, recognising the Livi game is one the Dons have tended to scrape through to earn three points during his tenure.
He said: “One goal should’ve been enough. In my time here, we’ve had loads of games where we’ve not been at our best for whatever reason.
“But we’ve had loads of 1-0 McGinn, 1-0 Rooneys.
“To concede the type of goal we did from a free-kick so far out – it wasn’t a free-kick by the way, the referee’s got it badly wrong.
“We should still see that off if we defend with the same authority and calmness we’ve been doing of late. But we gift it, we get sucked towards the ball, we don’t win the header and allow our man to work off us, and then they get the goal.”
The draw was a missed chance to make up ground on second-placed Rangers – who also drew, 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock.
McInnes said: “We knew with Rangers and Kilmarnock playing something had to give and we could’ve gained on both of them or one of them, but we haven’t.
“We’ve come through a tough spell, wanted three points and the first goal should’ve been enough to get that.
“We haven’t lost any ground, but it could’ve been a better day for us.”
McInnes also revealed he’d been forced to tackle Livi with the walking wounded, including centre-back Scott McKenna – who now looks set to miss Scotland’s first Euro 2020 qualifier against Kazakhstan on Thursday with a thigh problem.
He had planned to speak to Dark Blues boss Alex McLeish saying: “I’m not a medical expert, but having spoken to the physios and doctors, they would have a real concern for him being fit for Thursday.
“I think he’ll be fit for the Sunday game (in San Marino).
“We’ll need to make a decision between us and Scotland whether he travels (to Kazakhstan) or stays behind for treatment so he’s more fit for the second game.”