Elgin City boss Gavin Price felt the fitness levels were the difference in the end as his side fell to a 3-1 Premier Sports Cup defeat to Kelty Hearts.
Nathan Austin’s second half double won it for the Maroons after Cameron Russell had cancelled out an early header from City’s Creag Little.
The Moray men gave their new League Two rivals, the favourites to win that division, a stern test over 90 minutes but two classy Austin goals took the visitors over the line.
Price reckons his team faded when it mattered most in the second half.
He said: “I thought we were quite comfortable in the first half, but the levels were different in the second.
“It is a fitness thing. I think we ran out of steam in the second half and didn’t do the things we did so well in the first half.
“I can’t make too many more excuses as we’re getting towards the end of the competition now. We need to make sure we’re ready to go because it was a defeat caused by running out of steam.
“I can take reasonable heart from that first half, but we can play a lot better. It was a good gauge for us to show what we’ll be up against.”
It now means Elgin have lost all three Group B games and will go to East Fife on Saturday, with both teams looking to get points on the board in the final encounter for them in this season’s competition.
Price added: “It will be another step forward. I’m only really interested in the start of the league against Stranraer on July 31. It’s important we get ourselves going.”