Peterhead boss Jim McInally insists his makeshift side can be pleased with their performance despite going down 2-0 to Hearts in their opening Premier Sports Cup fixture on Saturday.
Goals from Gary Mackay-Steven and Liam Boyce gave the Jambos victory at Balmoor against the League 1 side but McInally believes his side should take heart from their display.
McInally said: “We were nice and competitive in the first half without really creating and a mistake from a young player let them score.
“We said to the players at half-time we had guys like Andy McCarthy, Hamish Ritchie and Lyle Cameron there who are as good as these other guys but didn’t show it and weren’t putting their best foot forward but I thought all three did in the second half and they showed up quite well.
“In the second half we exposed them a bit. I saw enough in the first half to think we could go 4-4-2 and have a real go at them.
“After the other night I was fearing the worst. These guys have got good movement, they work hard and they have pace so it was okay.
“I don’t like losing but it is about getting ready for when the season starts and we lost to a good side plus there were enough positives to be taken from that game.”
McInally had to rejig his side in the absence of suspended duo Scott Brown and Jason Brown against Robbie Neilson’s side. A late injury blow has also ruled another player out of Tuesday’s next group match at Championship side Caley Thistle.
The Peterhead manager said: “The two suspended players missed out and Andy’s hamstring went with the very last kick of the ball which is disappointing as I thought maybe we’d get away with it.
“We don’t have a big squad and it’s a shame Andy will be out for Tuesday.”
Peterhead, like so many other clubs across the country, have seen their pre-season preparations affected by games cancelled at late notice due to Covid outbreaks but McInally knows there is no alternative but to struggle on.
He said: “I saw Morton was another game to go at the weekend and it is just incredible what’s happening.
“We have been lucky on that front but we played two games last week which we probably shouldn’t have done but we’re trying to rush the players in.
“Everybody is in the same boat just now but we got everything we wanted from the game.”
Hearts opened the scoring in the 31st minute through Mackay-Steven as the winger raced in behind Josh Mulligan to score despite Blue Toon goalkeeper Lenny Wilson getting a touch on his shot.
The Blue Toon’s best chance fell to Russell McLean early in the second half.
McLean, who has rejoined Peterhead from Montrose, outmuscled John Souttar before lifting the ball over Jambos captain Craig Gordon only to see the ball bounce the wrong side of the post.
The chance came during Peterhead’s best spell of the game but their eagerness to find an early equaliser cost them as Hearts broke away to double their lead in the 58th minute as a diagonal ball sent Michael Smith clear down the right and the full back’s cross found Liam Boyce in space and the former Ross County forward slotted the ball low past Wilson to make it 2-0.