Robbie Neilson vows 'this is just the start' as Hearts boss outlines where Scottish Cup final was won and lost
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The Tynecastle Park side held the beaten Europa League finalists for the regulation 90 minutes, before quick-fire strikes from substitutes Ryan Jack and Scott Wright took the wind out of Hearts’ sails.
“Obviously, we are disappointed to lose a cup final. We wanted to win it but didn’t and that is a huge disappointment,” Neilson said afterwards.
“We have to take it on the chin, move forward, reflect, and try to see that it has been a very good season for us. We have come up from the Championship, finished third, secured group stage football and got to a cup final. We just couldn’t take that final step.”
Rangers made five changes following their defeat on penalties by Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville on Wednesday night and Neilson suggested the Ibrox side were not as tired as had been made out.
Allan McGregor, Glen Kamara, Scott Wright and Jack all dropped to the bench while Borna Barisic missed out through injury, with Jon McLaughlin, Leon Balogun, Scott Arfield, Steven Davis, and on-loan Manchester United winger Amad Diallo all coming in.
"A lot has been made of Rangers’ exploits on Wednesday but when you actually look at their team then four or five of them actually played in it,” Neilson continued.
“So they had that freshness. It was more down to the quality of players that were coming onto the pitch – we knew going into the game it was going to be very difficult and Rangers could then make the changes and two of them scored their goals.
“That is where we need to get to; where the people we bring on are really influencing the game.”
Neilson admitted a lack of chances had perhaps been Hearts’ downfall, as they failed to properly test McLaughlin throughout the 120 minutes and finished the showpiece without a single shot on target.
“For the first 90 minutes we started as the better team. Rangers built into it but didn’t really cause us a lot of problems other than [Calvin] Bassey and [Ryan] Kent delivering crosses.
"If we had had more chances we could have won the game but it wasn’t to be.”
Hearts’ best chance fell to loan striker Ellis Simms, who struck the outside of the post as he stretched to connect with a Liam Boyce cutback inside the opening ten minutes.
“It was a good chance but the big man has been outstanding for us. On another day it goes in,” Neilson added.
Paying tribute to the fans who backed their team throughout the 120 minutes, he thanked them, adding: “We’ve had hard times over the last couple of years but we are getting there, and we are back.
“We want to build, step forward and win. We want to take a step closer to the Old Firm and to try and get into the Europa League.
“This is just the start.”