Hearts 1-3 Rangers: Three things we learned

Steven MacLean impressed after coming on as a sub for Hearts
Steven MacLean impressed after coming on as a sub for Hearts
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Three observations from Hearts' Ladbrokes Premiership defeat to Rangers...

Hearts missed Clare and Haring

While Peter Haring was a doubt before the match, Sean Clare was named in the starting XI until he took ill during the pre-match warm-up, with Craig Wighton replacing him in the starting team.

This left Hearts with a central trio of Oliver Bozanic, Arnaud Djoum and Olly Lee and while the three individuals have shown what they’re capable of this term, the absence of the influential Haring, and Clare’s athleticism meant the Jambos lost the midfield battle against a well-drilled Rangers side.

Clare’s willingness to drive forwards, coupled with Haring’s power and height, were sorely lacking in a limp Hearts display. That Rangers first two goals came from the ball being lost in the midfield summed up how important the pair are to this Hearts team.

MacLean's renaissance

Steven MacLean hasn't had too many opportunities for Hearts recently, but his 30-minute appearance against Rangers will surely have given Craig Levein food for thought.

The veteran striker was in the right place at the right time to convert Jake Mulraney's cross, giving the Jambos a faint glimmer of hope and Hearts looked more threatening up front with the former St Johnstone man on the pitch.

His experience and instinct could be vital in the league run-in as well as in the Scottish Cup final against Celtic.

Listless Hearts

Anyone expecting Hearts to be playing with a renewed vigour or a sense of urgency as they seek to leapfrog rivals Hibs and chase a European berth would have been left disappointed at Tynecastle.

Despite last weekend's 3-0 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and subsequent progression to the Scottish Cup final, Hearts looked listless for much of the first period. Slack passing, being caught in possession and profligacy in front of goal meant the game was largely over by half time.

Hearts improved in the second period, and did get a goal back, but by that point the game was gone. If the Jambos put in a similar performance on May 25, Celtic will have a field day.

In some ways, next week's Edinburgh derby is the perfect chance for Hearts to exorcise the ghost of this loss - Craig Levein has previously admitted that it's a different mentality for games against their Capital rivals - and get it out of their system before the final.