Hearts "could not have given any more" in their Scottish League Cup semi-final defeat by Rangers at Hampden, says interim manager Austin MacPhee.
The Tynecastle side kept it goalless until Filip Helander struck just before the break, then Alfredo Morelos netted twice in the second half.
And MacPhee, who wants to be considered as a permanent replacement for Craig Levein, feels injuries proved costly.
"It's a very difficult period for the players," he told BBC Scotland.
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"I don't think I could have asked for any more in terms of effort. They've come off a bad result midweek [1-0 defeat by St Johnstone] and we had just had couple of days to work on what we want to do.
"We go into a huge game on Saturday against St Mirren and it's my job to make sure they are prepared, have a spring in step, ready to go and attack. It's a massive game, and I'm now just focused on that."
Hearts had just two shots on target as they were outplayed by Steven Gerrard's men, conceding goals either side of half-time.
Their chances were hampered by injuries to midfielder Glenn Whelan and defender Michael Smith, while MacPhee chose to take off Steven MacLean before the break with the forward on a yellow card.
"My hand was obviously forced with the substitutions due to the injuries to two of our key international players," he said.
"It was a big blow to lose Glenn, who has got so much experience, and helps us get through middle third of the pitch, and later we lost Michael.
"I knew I only had a limited time with [substitutes] Steven Naismith, Jamie Walker, Uche Ikpeazu. We wanted to be strong at end of game but we didn't get to a point they could make impact."