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Robbie Neilson cites Rangers’ strength in depth as area for Hearts to improve

Robbie Neilson’s side fell short at Hampden (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Robbie Neilson’s side fell short at Hampden (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson will set about adding to his squad after highlighting Rangers’ strength in depth as the key to his side’s Scottish Cup final defeat.

There was little in a tight opening 45 minutes at Hampden but Rangers got a grip on the game and were pushing for a winner before substitutes Ryan Jack and Scott Wright scored early on in extra time.

Glen Kamara was also introduced to add energy to the Gers midfield and Fashion Sakala came off the bench to stretch the game and came close to netting as Rangers brushed off the effects of their Europa League final exertions.

Neilson was able to bring on Andy Halliday, Josh Ginnelly, Gary Mackay-Steven and Aaron McEneff but he felt Rangers’ ability to freshen up their team was the key to their dominance.

“I would probably put it down to the quality of player that’s coming on to the pitch,” he said.

“A lot has been made of Wednesday night’s exploits but when you actually look at the team that went out, four or five of them actually played in it. So they have got that freshness.

“We knew coming into the game it was going to be very difficult.

“Rangers can then make the changes and the two guys they bring on scored the goals.

“That’s what we need to get to, we need to get to a stage where players we are bringing on are really influencing the game.”

Ellis Simms slid in to hit the post early on but Hearts did not manage a shot on target  and their supporters left deflated after their team never really got going.

They will have a Europa League play-off to look forward to once they shake off their Hampden disappointment and Neilson stressed they had made strides this season in their first campaign back in the top flight.

“We have had hard times over the last couple of years but we are getting there, we are back where we want to be,” he said.

“But we now need to build and step forward and come here and win, try and get closer to the Old Firm, try and get into the Europa League. But we are at the start of it now.”

John Souttar played his final game before moving to Rangers but most of Neilson’s first-team players are signed up with only Peter Haring considering his future.

“The rest of the squad are here, it’s just a case of adding to it now,” Neilson said. “We have a number of targets we are trying to get.”

Simms, Ben Woodburn, Taylor Moore and Alex Cochrane will also return to Everton, Liverpool, Bristol City and Brighton respectively.

“Some will go back, some we will try and get again, but the loan players are out of our control,” Neilson said.

“It’s up to the club whether they want to put them out again and at what level.

“We will try with a couple of them but it will probably be August before we get an answer.”