Ross Draper accepts Cove Rangers are playing catch-up with other teams in Scotland after their disrupted pre-season plans.
Cove had to cancel three pre-season friendlies against Aberdeen, Forfar Athletic and Fraserburgh due to Covid-related issues at the club.
That meant their first game together as a group was the 3-2 defeat to Stirling Albion in the Premier Sports Cup at the weekend.
Draper – a new arrival this summer after leaving Ross County – started at the weekend and in the 3-0 defeat against newly-promoted Hearts on Tuesday night.
Manager Paul Hartley has only been able to name three outfield substitutes on the bench for both games but hopes to have more available for Saturday’s trip to Peterhead.
Draper said: “We’ve had four training sessions – the gaffer doesn’t want to come in and batter the boys after they’ve been at work. A long session, a double session, you can’t do it.
“We’ve had four small sessions and two games, so boys are rusty and lacking a bit of game sharpness.
“There’s no drama. We did OK at times on Tuesday night and restricted them to a few chances, which you expect.
“If you can’t get yourself up for playing Hearts in a stadium like this, you’re in the wrong business. It’s a good test to ourselves against good teams; they’re obviously on a high from getting promoted and do well in the Premiership.
“We knew the group we’re in, we were going to have tests against Hearts and Inverness. We were surprised by how good Stirling were and we’re probably a couple of weeks off other teams, because of Covid and injuries.
“We’re using it as pre-season games. We want to get in the habit of winning games but it’s a good run-out for everyone.”
FT | HMFC 3-0 CRFC
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Draper was shifted back to centre-half for the trip to Tynecastle, with Cove regular Ryan Strachan picking up a calf injury on Saturday.
He added: “Strachs has tweaked his calf a little bit so we’re a little bit short in that area. I’ve stepped back there and I don’t mind it. I quite like it.
“Testing yourself against someone like Liam Boyce is brilliant. You have to watch him all the time.”
Draper and Iain Vigurs joined Cove last month on three-year deals, after their release by the Staggies.
Both are making their first forays into part-time football and are commuting from their bases in the Highlands.
Draper paid tribute to the efforts the club have gone to in helping him make the transition for the first time.
He said: “I’m loving it. It’s a completely different scenario, looking for work and planning a career after football.
“You’re trying to do that, come through to Cove to train Tuesday and Thursday, see the kids and family. It’s tough and it will be for a couple of years.
“But in terms of football, I’m loving it. It’s a really good set of boys and real competition for places.
“It’s a great little club with great people. The chairman and manager will bend over backwards to do everything they can for the players.
“It’s made a lot easier than what it might have been.”