“We’ve had hard times over the last couple of years but we’re getting there and we’re back,” said the Hearts manager Robbie Neilson in the wake of the 2-0 defeat by Rangers. “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. It is just the start.
“Obviously, we are disappointed to lose a cup final. We wanted to win it but we didn’t and that is a huge disappointment but 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.
“I would put that down to the quality of players that were coming onto the pitch. 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.
“So they had that freshness. 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.”
But, having taken Celtic to a penalty shoot out in the 2020 final, they matched Rangers for 94 minutes before Giovanni van Brocnkhorst’s team were able to edge into an unassailable lead, which they then doubled three minutes later.
“We are a team who can come here and compete and put ourselves in a position to win the game,” added Neilson.
“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.“
Arguably, the capital side’s best opportunity fell to on-loan Ellis Simms in the opening 10 minutes
“It was a good chance,” admitted his gaffer, “but the big man has been outstanding for us. We ask him to go in there and on another day it goes in.”
The striker will head back to his parent club, Everton, but Neilson has not given up hope of a return next season.
“Some [loan players] will go back. Some we will try and get back but with loan players they are out with our control. It is up to the club if they want to put them back out and at what level. We will try with a couple but it will probably be August before we get answers.”
But with several names already pinpointed, to bolster the attack as well as fill the massive void left by John Souttar, they are now just waiting to see if Peter Haring stays.
“We’ve offered him a contract and he has a decision to make. The rest of the squad is here and it is just a case of adding to it. We have a number of targets and hopefully we can get them in.”