Steven Naismith blamed a European hangover and early teething trouble with new signings as Hearts stumbled to a goalless Premiership draw at home to Kilmarnock.
The Tynecastle side lacked the necessary spark in attack to break down a resolute Kilmarnock, who enjoyed the better opportunities over the course of the stalemate.
And Jambos technical director Naismith admits Thursday’s Europa Conference League third qualifying round encounter with Rosenborg in Norway appeared to have an effect on his players.
He said: “There was some frustration there but I’m realistic and I’ve got the experience of being in these situations.
“There’s been a few new players come in, it’s new to them, we have played away from home in Europe and come back.
“You’ll have seen it a million times that these are tough performances even before you look at the opposition.
“It was a slow start. Everyone was waiting for somebody to ignite the performance but as the game went on and the second-half developed, it looked very good for us.
“We were very composed and we made Kilmarnock defend.
“A big positive is we looked really secure at the back. That’s one of the big areas we needed to improve on, in set plays and general play and I thought we did look solid.”
The former Rangers and Scotland striker added: “(Thursday) is going to have an impact, without a doubt. I’ve been there as a player – it’s hard.
“As much as you prepare properly and do everything right, it’s an intense period. We’ve not had the luxury of having many competitive games and the adrenaline in the build up to games takes a bit out of you as well.
“And we’ve got new players who are still trying to bed in. So you’ve got to juggle all that but overall, there were loads of pleasing aspects to our performance.”
Hearts are back at home on Thursday night for the second leg of the meeting with Rosenborg as they seek to overturn their 2-1 first-leg deficit.
Asked if he was confident they could find a spark for that match, Naismith said: “If we don’t, then we have a problem.
“If players don’t want to play on a European night at Tynecastle, then that’s a problem. But I’m comfortable with that.”
Meanwhile, Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes hailed his new-look side for taking their haul to four points after their opening-day shock win over Rangers.
The Rugby Park outfit carried the greater attacking threat and Kyle Magennis’ header and Stuart Findlay’s shot came closest to breaking the deadlock.
McInnes said: “We’re not celebrating coming here and getting a point and the clean sheet and the performance.
“But what I am privately celebrating is the type of team we’ve become in a short space of time.
“Coming through the League Cup stages and frantically trying to put a squad together that can meet the demands, we had so much to do.
“But the team over the last couple of games have shown so many real qualities.
“That wasn’t just a battling performance, that wasn’t us hanging in. Hearts came onto it for about 10 minutes towards the end, but I thought we were pretty assured and comfortable throughout.
“And I think we look as if we’ve been playing together a lot longer than what we have done – and that’s testament to the players.
“That’s two clean sheets against Rangers and Hearts.
“It’s not been perfect but it was a strong performance, as it needed to be and it was pretty comfortable for the vast majority of it.”