Hearts will learn from Rangers defeat after 'small margins' as Macaulay Tait's big moment discussed

Jambos boss challenges his team to return to Hampden

Steven Naismith has insisted that Hearts, including 18-year-old midfielder Macaulay Tait, can only benefit from another bruising Hampden experience against Rangers.

The Tynecastle side have never beaten their Ibrox counterparts at the national stadium and this well-established pattern was not disturbed here as two goals from Cyriel Dessers settled the semi-final and ensured a first Old Firm Scottish Cup final since 2002. Dessers struck after just five minutes and then scored the decisive goal with 12 minutes left after Tait lost possession following a driving run through midfield. Naismith praised his young midfielder for not giving up but admitted it was a significant moment in the match.

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“It is a big moment,” he said. "It is a big moment for him. He will learn from it. He is the type of character that’ll learn from it. He is someone who has played in the Scottish Cup semi-final at 17-18, what I liked after that is that he still wanted the ball, was still going forward and still played the forward passes. That will make him better. But he’ll be the first to look at it and say, ‘I should have played the pass or I should have taken my time on the ball,’. But that’s football. It’s about the small margins.”

The dejected Hearts players look on during the 2-0 defeat by Rangers at Hampden.The dejected Hearts players look on during the 2-0 defeat by Rangers at Hampden.
The dejected Hearts players look on during the 2-0 defeat by Rangers at Hampden.

Naismith stressed his whole team will learn after they were guilty of wasting too many chances. Hearts were still very much in the tie as it reached the midway point of the second half. The manager agreed it was an opportunity lost. “I think it is because of how we played and the manner of the goals we lost," Naismith said. "It is definitely an opportunity missed. If we take one of those chances and it’s 1-1 with 15 minutes to go we have the momentum and we looked to be comfortable in possession. The second goal is a killer for us because at the time that it came we had 100 per cent possession and we gave it up cheaply.”

He challenged his side to return to Hampden for semi-finals and finals on a regular basis. Hearts have now suffered consecutive semi-final defeats to Rangers. They also lost to the Ibrox side in the 2022 Scottish Cup final. Naismith stressed that the test was reacting to such disappointments.

"I’ve had it in my career," he said. "Others have been here and had disappointment. I think compared from the last semi final this was much better today. We carried much more threat, we were brave in possession and it’s just those small margins … if we had taken one of our chances we have all the momentum and it builds. You could tell in the second half it was going that way a bit. That is the difference between winning and losing.

"Since the start of the season we have come a long way," he added. "We are in a really good position in the league and on the edge of making European group stages. That’s good. But these moments are hard to take for players. Everyone is gutted and disappointed. We got brilliant backing from 19,500 fans. There were some good moments in the game. The players will look back and be frustrated at the chances we give for the goals and for the opportunities that fell our way, and what could they have done. But the more you do something the more you learn and the better decisions you make. That is what we have to hope and I really believe that (will happen).”

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