HEARTS skipper Andy Webster admitted today his disappointment at being unable to repay the club’s supporters for their backing this season.
Webster was gutted as his side missed out on their second trophy in just ten months, losing to St Mirren in the Scottish Communities League Cup final.
Ryan Stevenson had got the Jambos off to a brilliant start, firing them into an early lead at Hampden, only for Saints to come back from a goal down and then race into a 3-1 lead.
Stevenson, who was Hearts’ best player on the day, gave them hope of a late comeback with his second of the afternoon but it was too little, too late and Danny Lennon’s side hung on for victory.
Budget cuts and a string of disappointing results have seen Hearts struggle at the lower end of the SPL table this season and the club part company with former manager John McGlynn. After a disappointing season in the SPL, Hearts fans had pinned their hopes on another trophy to add to the Scottish Cup they won at the end of the last campaign.
Instead, it was Lennon’s side who celebrated their first ever success in the competition with an open-topped bus parade in Paisley and Webster conceded that seeing their opponents lift the cup had been a painful experience. But it could all have been so different had Hearts converted some of the chances that they created in the opening half hour of the match.
Stevenson took just ten minutes to fire Hearts in front and his goal was quickly followed by a header off the post from John Sutton.
Minutes later Michael Ngoo was just inches away from turning the ball home and then Mehdi Taouil pulled his shot just wide of keeper Craig Samson’s left-hand post.
“The Hearts fans were amazing”, said Webster. “It was just disappointing that we couldn’t get the win to repay them for the support they have shown.
“I think they realised the effort that the boys put in and that has been typical of our season so far.
“It would have been nice to win the cup for them but it just wasn’t to be. We’re just all hugely disappointed. It is never easy losing a final.
“We did have chances in that first half and it could have been different if we had taken them but that’s hindsight for you.
“I thought that we started the game very well but we lost the equaliser on the counter-attack.
“When we lost the goal so quickly after half-time and then found ourselves 3-1 down, we knew that we had given ourselves a massive task.”
The pain of yesterday’s defeat will be raw for some time to come, no doubt, but Webster is already looking to Hearts’ next game and the chance to get back to winning ways.
There are no domestic games this weekend as Scotland are in action against Wales in Glasgow so the Tynecastle side’s next action is away to Aberdeen in just under a fortnight.
And, although there is nothing for them to play for other than their pride over the remainder of the season, defender Webster is determined that Hearts will put 100 per cent into bagging as many points as possible from the matches they still have to play. “We have got to pick ourselves up now and get on with it,” he insisted.
“It is going to be a test for us from now until the end of the season.
“We know that, no matter what, we are not going to make up for this disappointment, but it has to be onwards and upwards for us now.
“We have got to deal with the disappointment, which is obviously not great [to do], but such is life as a footballer.
“Whether you win or you lose, you are having to test yourself every single week, both physically and mentally, and it is up to us now to rise to the challenges that are ahead.
“When you get to any major cup final there is going to be added pressure on you and, when you have had the kind of season that we have, it was something for us to look forward to.
“It hasn’t worked out the way that we had hoped that it would and we are all majorly disappointed.”
Any disappointment that the Hearts players felt would surely have been tenfold for new manager Locke, who grew up a supporter and played for the club for nine years – from the early 90s through to 2001 – returning as coach under Jim Jefferies in 2010 and, at the weekend, taking the reins himself.
From the high of being appointed manager, Locke will have been gutted to lose out in his first cup final but Webster revealed that the players are more than happy with the decision to keep him in the post on a permanent basis.
He said: “That’s the joy of football. You have to take from it what you can and get on with it, stay focused on the job in hand.
“The boys are delighted that Gary has been given the job and it’s up to us all to make the transition as smooth as possible.”