John Souttar refuted any suggestions that Hearts suffered from rustiness as their return to action following the winter break began with a 1-1 draw away to Raith Rovers in the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The sides will do it all over again in a replay tomorrow as Declan McManus’ last-gasp leveller denied the Jambos their place in the next round with Hibs awaiting the winners.
“I thought we played well first half,” said Souttar. “We knew what Raith were going to do and I thought we stood up well to them. But it doesn’t matter now. It feels like a defeat because it was so late. We just need to keep the heads up and get a win on Wednesday.
"I don't think the winter break was a factor," he continued. "I thought we started the game well, started it sharper. Training has been very intense so it’s not like we’ve had that much of a rest.
“We’ve got back into it quickly and we’ve been doing a lot of double sessions. So I wouldn’t say that’s to blame at all. I just think it’s so disappointing, as you can probably tell, to concede that late goal. It feels like a defeat because it was so late."
John also focused on some of the more positive aspects of the match, including the chance to get to know his defensive partners better, with three new signings joining him in the back four making their debuts.
Praising Andraz Struna, Lennard Sowah and Aaron Hughes, the John admitted there was plenty he could learn from his veteran colleagues.
"I thought it was good - we’ve had nine days together so we've got to know each other," he said. "There’s a lot of experience in there.
“The right-back, Andraz, has played a lot of games for Slovenia. Aaron obviously comes with a wealth of experience so it’s good.
"There’s always something you can learn from every player, but he is an exception because he has made it, hasn’t he? He’s played 455 games in the Premier League so it’s good for me to learn from people like that."