Steven Naismith's direct comments as Hearts exit the Scottish Cup against Rangers

The Tynecastle head coach cut a frustrated figure as he left Hampden Park

Steven Naismith implored Hearts to learn from their Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Rangers and lamented what he termed “immaturity” in attack. The Tynecastle heach coach made some direct comments in the aftermath of his team’s 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park as Cyriel Dessers’ double sent Rangers into the final against Celtic on 25 May.

Frustration was evident in Naismith as he discussed the outcome and bemoaned the concession of a cheap early goal. “I’m frustrated and disappointed with the outcome because I am someone who wants to win. That's the overriding emotion at the moment,” he explained.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We got off to a terrible start. We can't lose an early goal like we did. The reaction until the second goal was good. We controlled the ball a lot, we created opportunities. I think what you see is our immaturity in the final third. We had four or five really good situations, we either pick the wrong option or overhit a pass or don't get the finish. In those moments we must hit the target, make the goalie make a save or score a goal. That's the biggest frustration for me because we got good opportunities we didn't take and the goals we concede are cheap.”

The learning curve is continual for Hearts after falling at the last hurdle before the final in both national cup competitions this season. Rangers were their opponents on both occasions. “Yeah, that's the big thing. Since the start of the season, we've come a long way,” said Naismith. “In the league, we are in a really good position on the edge of making the European group stage, so that's good.

“These moments are hard to take for players. Everybody is gutted and disappointed, we had brilliant backing, 19,500 fans. There are some good moments in the game. The players will be frustrated with the chances we give up for the goals. They will play the game back in their mind and what could they have done. The more you do something the more you learn and the better decision you make. We've got to hope and I really believe that because so far this season we've progressed well.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Asked if he felt the semi-final was an opportunity missed, Naismith gave a candid response. “Yeah, it is because of how we played and the manner of the goals we lost,” he remarked. “It was definitely an opportunity missed. If we take one of the chances it's 1-1 with 15 minutes to go, we've got the momentum, we look to be comfortable in possession and the second goal is a killer for us because at that moment of the game, we had possession and we give it up cheap.”

The Hearts players must show resilience to recover from the disappointment and Naismith is keen to see their reactions. “That's it. I did it in my career, others have been here and had disappointments but I think from the last semi-final to this one we performed much better. We carried more of a threat, we were brave in possession. It’s just those small margins. If we take on of the chances we have all the momentum and it builds. You can tell in the second half it was going like that a wee bit but that's the difference between winning and losing.”

“We will look over it as we always do. There will be frustrations, there will be disappointments and there are definitely parts to learn from but from where we've come from in the summer to now, we're in a good place. That's it. We want to get to the semi-finals and finals next season and push on from there. I need to give the squad a lot of credit. We are a young squad, the second youngest in Scotland. What we are asking them to do is high risk at times but the rewards are good. We just need that last wee moment to score the goal which again changes the dynamic of the game.”

Naismith stressed he is not necessarily looking to sign a clutch of experienced players this summer. “Not overly,” he said. “This season we have missed [Liam] Boyce, missed [Craig] Halkett, missed Barrie McKay for most of it. They are all experienced players, that's how we have suffered in moments. Like every season we will try to improve, try to bring players in we feel will help push the levels, bring what they are going to bring. I'm frustrated because it was a good opportunity and I had full belief we could win it.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Teenage substitute Macaulay Tait lost possession in midfield prior to Dessers’ scoring Rangers’ second. Naismith took the chance to throw an arm around the youngster. “It's a big moment for him but he'll learn from it. He's the type of character that will learn from it. He's someone who has played in the Scottish Cup semi-final at 18. What I liked was that after that he still wanted the ball, wanted to go forward, still played the forward passes. That will make him better but he will be the first to look at it and say: ‘I should have played the pass or taken my time on the ball.’ That's football, the small margins are the difference between winning and losing.”

Naismith also explained his decision to leave left-back Alex Cochrane out of the Hearts starting line-up in favour of Stephen Kingsley. “I just think it suited the game better with Kingsley's experience, delivery from dead balls in both boxes and his physicality as well. It was a general decision that you need to make,” said the head coach.

“I thought Barrie McKay and Yutaro Oda trained really well this week, like a few others, and were unfortunate not to start. I thought we gave a good account of ourselves but being hungry to be successful, we need to tidy up those small points which are big in games like this. We started the game slow and at times we were thinking of pressing and didn't. Against better times, that's too late.

“At the first goal, the 50-50 on the edge of the box, we've got to win that. Then there has to be a calmness. It's a cheap goal, but the reaction was good. In the last semi-final, once we went behind, we never really came back into it too much. This was better. We had good chances in the final third, Jack Butland made a couple of really good saves but we've got to score.”

Related topics: