Stephen Kingsley knows young Hearts are repeat offenders as harsh Rangers lesson keeps being taught

Stephen Kingsley has been in the game long enough to know the devastation felt inside Hearts’ dressing room at Hampden will linger for some time yet.

But the 29-year-old believes using that pain can only act as another key building block to keep getting this side into such positions and, crucially, to make them count. Steven Naismith’s Jambos were again left shattered at the National Stadium in the wake of a second cup semi-final loss of the season to Rangers.

Dumped out of the Viaplay Cup by Philippe Clement’s team, Kingsley and Co. fell at the hands of the Belgian’s side once more in the Scottish. Two big opportunities missed and Hearts know it. Although of little consolation in the immediate aftermath, Kingsley hopes to look back on it as part of the process that brings a prosperous future. Defeat can offer education and drive to a growing group as he said: “We are a young team. I’m sure I heard Naisy say in the press the other day we are the second youngest in the league. We are a team who will only get better with experience.

“We have got Europe hopefully coming up if we manage to maintain our form in the league and get third wrapped up. This is all good stuff for the young boys as well as a couple of the older heads to drive us forward and to improve game after game, season after season, and try to be in that position where we are making finals, taking our chances and winning cups. That’s the goal.

“So days like this are disappointing but we need to build on it. We need to take the positives, learn from it, of course.

“Even looking at Macaulay Tait coming on. He found it difficult coming into a game of that magnitude at that pace when we were down. But what an experience that is for the boy, coming on to a game like that on that stage. That’s only going to serv him well and stand him in good stead going forward.

“We’re devastated obviously, everyone is, as you can imagine. We have talked about it and, yes, we are completely disappointed. You are in there, in the dressing room, and the atmosphere is not nice.

“It’s not where you want to be when you are coming to the big occasion and you feel like you are good enough to get a result. It is very disappointing. But we’ll use it. It is going to be sore for the next wee while but we’ll learn from it.”

It was obvious Kingsley and his team-mates would be hurting at the manner of their latest Hampden setback. Rangers were wobbling running out in Mount Florida, having drawn at Dundee and lost at Ross County in the league in the week leading up to it..

However, Hearts gave them an instant lift by offering up an opener inside five minutes. It was a source of deep frustration within the camp as Kingsley added: “When we’ve played Rangers, we have been guilty of not starting right.

“And at the start of a game – especially on a big occasion like this one – you need to be strong, you need to be resolute. You cannot give them any confidence whatsoever. They had come off the back of two poor results for their standards, so we need to start strong.

“We need to be resolute defensively, not give them an inch, not give them a chance, take away that momentum their crowd will give them and build from that. But we haven’t done that. In every game we’ve played them when we’ve been beaten, I feel that’s been the issue.

“We have not started the way we should have and when you go 1-0 or 2-0 down, you are giving yourself a mountain to climb. I don’t think it is the occasion. We have played on the big occasions before and have won on big occasions before.

“It’s disappointment, really. We were well in the game. It was a disappointing first five minutes with the goal we conceded.

“We’ve talked about that before, about starting strong, so we’re extremely disappointed to have lost that goal in the manner we did. But we reacted to it really well and we were in the game for the rest of it.

“Obviously we are starting to chase it towards the end and they grab a second, which was a bit of a killer. We gave the ball away needlessly in the middle of the pitch. We did it a couple of times and got found out a couple of times.

“But that time they punished us and it was a kick in the teeth because we were in it until that point. And the last 10 minutes
was scrapping, trying to get something out of it and keeping in the game. But it wasn’t to be.

“To be fair to the boys, apart from the two goals, we were always in the game. In fact, at times, actually we were maybe the better team – maybe not in terms of possession or breaking them down but getting into their half, maintaining the attacks we had, camping them in at times, especially in the second half.

“So it was disappointing to concede that early goal and not give ourselves a foothold in the game.”