Paul Hartley believes he has reason for optimism after seeing Cove Rangers hold Dundee.
The newly-promoted side drew 1-1 with Dundee at Dens Park on Saturday, four days after the Dark Blues won 1-0 in Aberdeen.
Cove have two further games, against Fraserburgh and Banks o’ Dee, before the start of the season, and Hartley is happy with the shape his side are in.
He said: “It was a good test for us and a good test for Dundee, especially in the second half.
“We changed the shape in the second half – we went with a back three in the first half which we hadn’t worked too much on. It was a bit of an unknown to us.
“Three at the back is something we probably need to work on a bit more. We didn’t really pass it that well in the first half, but the second half was much better.
“You need to work hard, concentrate so much, focus. The work ethic was terrific, so I’m pleased the way things are going just now.
“It’s not been easy, but we feel we’ve got a decent squad. We’re happy with the attitude of the players and their conditioning is good.”
Cove stopper Stuart McKenzie denied Jordan McGhee and Graham Dorrans in the first 20 minutes, but both sides were left concerned after a collision between Fraser Fyvie and Fin Robertson in the centre circle.
Robertson lay prone on the turf before being stretchered off, after the game had been held up for four minutes, while Fyvie managed a little more than another 10 minutes before he too had to be replaced.
Hartley made five changes at the break, including bringing on teenage goalkeeper Ryan Mullen who had signed a season-long loan deal from Celtic earlier in the week.
It was one of those half-time replacements who played a part in the opener as Broque Watson’s right-wing corner was turned in by Scott Ross from eight yards.
Cove were left with another injury concern 10 minutes into the second half as Harry Milne, who played at centre-half instead of his usual left-back slot, also had to be taken off after picking up a knock.
His replacement, Ryan Strachan, was the unfortunate culprit for Dundee’s leveller on 63 minutes.
Max Anderson’s diagonal ball sought out Declan McDaid and Strachan attempted to guide the ball back to Mullen, only for the goalkeeper to advance towards the flight of the ball and dive helplessly as it rolled into the net.
The visitors were spared a further injury blow when Jordon Brown was able to continue after a 50-50 challenge, while Dorrans dragged a shot wide for Dundee.
Rory McAllister had vehement appeals for a penalty waved away, as he felt Jordon Foster dragged him down as he tried to get on the end of Watson’s cross.
Hartley was impressed with debuting goalkeeper Mullen and hopes he and Stuart McKenzie benefit from working with new goalkeeping coach Alan Combe.
He said: “It was good for him, getting into real men’s football. He’d just come in on Thursday and he did well on Saturday.
“Hopefully, the keepers push each other on and bringing Alan Combe in will help them as well.”