Rangers rest as Hearts reintegrate - who will be the happier after Tynecastle dress rehearsal?

On a day when Rangers filled their matchday squad with a mix of youngsters and fringe men, keeping their first-choice players under wraps ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League final, Hearts were doing their damndest to reintegrate their mainstays.

But, while defenders John Souttar and Craig Halkett strengthened their case for a place in Hearts’ Scottish Cup team, there will be nervy wait to see if the triumvirate of Liam Boyce, Peter Haring and Ellis Simms all bounce back from various niggles picked up in the side’s final home game of the season.

It was a match that meant very little as a stand-alone encounter. Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst has bigger things to worry about as he heads out to Seville to face Eintracht Frankfurt. Wrapping the men he hopes will deliver a glorious night for the club in cotton wool, he gave a host of youngsters a run out in Edinburgh and they delivered, showing resilience and producing the best possible response to losing the opening goal.

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Haring grabbed that goal for the home side in the 24th minute. Simms had generated the opening, using pace, power and a direct running to hold off James Sands and play in the Austrian and he skelped a swerving shot past former Hearts keeper Jon McLaughlin.

Cedric Itten equalised for Rangers with a powerful header.Cedric Itten equalised for Rangers with a powerful header.
Cedric Itten equalised for Rangers with a powerful header.

However, by half-time in an open game, Rangers were back on top.

Cedric Itten levelled things in the 32nd minute. He had been denied a minute earlier by Hearts keeper Craog Gordon but Scotland’s No 1 could do nothing to deny him when the resultant corner kick came over and the Swiss rose to bullet a powerful header into the net.

Hearts had been unsettled by the loss of Boyce and then knocks to Simms and Haring, who both played on until part way through the second period, while the Rangers youngsters, steered through that early period by the likes of Scott Arfield and Aaron Ramsey, began to find their groove.

And by the time they headed up the tunnel at the interval, they had taken the lead.

Alex Lowry was impressive for Rangers, scoring their second goal.Alex Lowry was impressive for Rangers, scoring their second goal.
Alex Lowry was impressive for Rangers, scoring their second goal.

It looked a bit too easy from Hearts’ point of view but the 18-year-old won’t care. He took full advantage of the space he was given to run into on that left flank and glided through the defence before coolly dispatching his effort through bodies and past Gordon.

With their first-choice side reinstalled next week, Hearts will hope to make life more difficult than that for their rivals.

There were opportunities at both ends but, after both teams had further reshuffled their packs and the visitors had thrown on teenager Cole McKinnon for his debut, the young Scot marked the occasion by weighing in with the side’s third and final goal. And, it was a finish that belied his inexperience, taking possession in the area and showing the composure to hit on the turn.

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It gave the travelling support the chance to goad their rivals, hoping for a psychological edge ahead of next weekend. But no-one in Gorgie was panicking.

As the Hearts fans lapped up the applause of their fans following a positive league campaign, they know that there is still more success on offer and that Rangers aren’t the only ones on the trail of a silver lining for their season.