Steven Naismith's frustration at Rangers 'gulf' before seeing real Hearts team in Youth Cup final

Hearts Under-18s boss Steven Naismith believes the defeat to Rangers in the Scottish Youth Cup final will stand his players in good stead – but can’t look past the frustration of two differing performances in each half.

The Tynecastle Park side trailed 2-0 at half-time at Hampden Park but rallied after the break and set up an exciting finish when substitute Murray Thomas struck in the closing stages.

Played in front of more than 2,200 fans at the national stadium, there was a “gulf" between the sides in the first half, according to Naismith, before the team showed what they can do after the interval.

"The biggest thing is going to be frustration,” he said. “Every player that plays in a cup final maybe sees how close it was and they have that frustration in the first-half performance. Of the teams we seemed nervous, uptight about playing. Inevitably when that happens the boys don’t press and don’t sit off.

"The second half, when you’ve got nothing to lose, you’ve got that ‘just go and press’ then you create opportunities. It is small margins.

“What I said to the boys who will move on from 18s this year, when you play professional level that pressure is there, you’re in front of fans, there is an expectation to play and have a level of ability. For the boys who have still got years at 18s, use that frustration to get back here and finals become easier the more you are in them. You use the disappointment to say ‘this isn't going to happen again’. They've played in this environment now so they can use that.

He added: “I say to young players all the time. As much as this is a team game, they need to be ruthless, need to be performing week in, week out, whether it is training or games because if you are not someone will take your place. That’s in football in general.

"These experiences are hard to come by. Some senior players have gone through their career and never played at the national stadium or a cup final like this. They need to recognise it.”

Hearts Under-18 boss Steven Naismith. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Tight calls

Goal scorer Thomas, as well as Mackenzie Ross and James Wilson all made a positive impact off the bench.

"There were a couple that were tight calls who would play," Naismith said.

The subs did make a difference but the game changes. It is a cup final. We need to throw caution to the wind, they probably didn’t capitalise as much as they could have going forward.

"Our players made the right choices in the second half, whether it was a pass or a shot, most of the time.”

This has been Nasimith's first season as a manager having taken over the 18s from John Rankin earlier in the campaign.

“It’s definitely a learning experience for myself because you need to impact the game differently,” he said. “I can’t go and get the ball and do what I did as a player. You’ve got to be clever in how you get your information on the pitch to what you do at what moments in the game.

"These are all things I am learning. But it was a great occasion and something I did enjoy.”

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