Cove Rangers boss John Sheran pointed to his knackered squad and a bit of bad luck after they exited the Irn-Bru Cup to Montrose.
The Highland League champions held the League One Gable Endies to a 2-2 draw at Balmoral Stadium, but lost 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out.
Sheran’s team, who almost reached the Scottish leagues last term, showed once again they’re more than a match for senior opposition.
Cove were forced to bench striker Mitch Megginson and midfielder Blair Yule, and ultimately the tie was decided when Montrose keeper Jordan Millar tipped Jordon Brown’s spot-kick round the post.
Sheran said: “I think we had one or two guys who weren’t quite 100% tonight so we left them out.
“They made a lot of changes as well, but we were happy with the workout and on a different day you win the penalty shoot-out.”
He added: “Unfortunately, at the moment we don’t have an awful lot of (personnel) choices, because of injuries to players and stuff like that.
“We’re a victim of having to play all of these games.
“It does make it quite hard, but we’ll get the boys freshened up and ready to go again on Saturday (in the Highland League v Huntly).”
The situation has been made more difficult for the Aberdeen side with Sheran saying not all of his players had come through the cup match unscathed.
Midfielder Connor Scully was one player who went off injured.
Goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie was the first Cove player to miss a penalty, something Sheran said is unusual.
The gaffer said: “Stuart always takes one in our penalty shoot-outs. He always goes number three and over the time I’ve worked with him he’s always scored.
“Tonight it didn’t happen for him, but he had some great saves in the game and I think penalty shoot-outs are either going to go for you or they’re not.”
The scoring was opened at the Balmoral Stadium after Montrose’s Craig Johnston was awarded an odd penalty after going down in the box, seemingly by the linesman.
Iain CAMPBELL smashed it over McKenzie.
However, just before half-time, Cove were level when veteran striker Paul MCMANUS fired home a loose ball after a Scully effort was saved.
Four minutes after the break and a MCMANUS wonder goal, his sixth of the fledgling campaign, which saw him skin Campbell before firing across goal into the postage stamp, put Cove in front.
McKenzie then maintained the lead soon after, saving a low, edge-of-the-box effort from Josh Skelly and then a back-post header from Johnston as the League One side turned the screw.
But Cove were pegged back by Liam CALLAGHAN’S low, edge-of-the-box strike on 69 minutes.
In the shoot-out, Montrose blinked first, McKenzie stopping Martyn Fotheringham’s central effort.
But McKenzie then missed, and Johnston’s successful penalty meant Brown’s miss saw Montrose win.