Stephen Kingsley pushing to stake his claim at Hearts but admits he feared the worst
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The influence of Stephen Kingsley and Peter Haring underpinned Hearts’ second-half revival in Norway on Thursday. Experience, character and nous are prevalent in both players and helped their team-mates mount a crucial recovery in the Europa Conference League qualifying tie.
Kingsley entered the field inside the Lerkendal Stadion on 62 minutes to play left-back and later crossed for Lawrence Shankland to head Hearts goal in the 2-1 first-leg defeat. Haring had been orchestrating midfield since his half-time introduction and was a central figure in a much-improved performance by the visitors.
Both men underlined their claim for reinstatement to the starting line-up, and it would be no surprise were they in the team for Thursday’s return leg in Edinburgh. Having contributed to Saturday’s 2-0 opening Premiership win at St Johnstone, they were perhaps entitled to feel surprised at sitting on the bench in Trondheim.
“I'm feeling good and feeling fit,” said Kingsley. “We got a good win at St Johnstone and I thought I played well there as well. I was just happy to come in and help the boys. It could prove to be an important goal so hopefully I've helped.
“I think their 2-0 lead was more our doing than them having great moves and breaking us down when we were in a compact shape. These are areas we can look at and improve on for next week. We conceded the first goal on 14 minutes and you're sitting on the bench thinking: 'This could be a long night if we don't sort this out.' Losing another one right before half-time is a sucker-punch as well, but we reacted well in the second half.
“Rosenborg are a young team. I felt that, when we did get a bit of a foothold in the game, they started to feel the pressure a bit. We were frustrated at the first half display. We were a bit nervy, it was a bit slow, so we need to have a look back and see what the problems were. The dynamic changed in the second half and the goal helped. We looked to get a foothold in the game and scoring made it a nervy last 10 minutes or so for Rosenborg.
“It's something to grab on to and take back to Tynecastle. We hope that, in a full stadium, with them protecting a lead and us rectifying the mistakes we made in Norway, that the goal we got can be really important.”
Creating a goal for Shankland on his birthday surely entitled Kingsley to a slice of the cake? “I forgot it was his birthday. He'll need to give me a bit of cake or something now! I'm delighted for him. He was working hard and it was tough for him. He looked a bit frustrated but I'm happy to help and give him a wee present for his birthday.”
Hearts will have learned that, by pressing Rosenborg back in the second half, they managed to cause some problems. Expect that tactic to be repeated on a Tynecastle pitch much smaller in dimensions than Lerkendal. There will also be a raucous crowd in attendance. “They are young so we will see how they come to Tynecastle and deal with that pressure,” said Kingsley.