BILLY KIRKWOOD pointed to missed opportunities and a disappointing opening period as being the key factors behind tonight’s City of Glasgow Cup Final defeat to Celtic.

The under-17s coach was left frustrated as his men toiled in the early part of the game, falling behind to a Ewan Henderson goal before levelling through Matthew Shiels.

But, despite a much improved second half, they missed further chances to take the lead before being punished by Jack Aitchison who grabbed the winner for the Parkhead club.

Speaking afterwards to RangersTV.tv, Kirkwood explained: “I thought in the first half we were quite fortunate to come in at 1-1, although after the goal we gave a better account of ourselves. In the first 30 minutes though I thought we were very poor – very poor in possession and untidy and scrappy in our passing.

“We managed to get a really good goal and had a couple of wee half chances after it. In the second half we made a couple of changes positional-wise and were well in the game. It was a poor second goal to lose and then again, near the end of the game there were a couple of chances which could have taken the game to penalty kicks.

“Overall, poor in the first half hour but after that, much, much better. I think though in these sort of games you need to start with the intensity we showed in the last hour.”

Kirkwood revealing both he and his players had an honest discussion at half time, with the coach telling his men: “Do better. They all understood they could do better. They were disappointed with their first touch and they were certainly disappointed in terms of passing. I have got to say that’s probably the worst we have been this season in terms of passing, and unfortunately it was in a cup final.

“So it is a learning process for them coming into a cup final against Celtic and coming into a stadium where there was a bit of a crowd. There was an expectation level and that is the sort of thing they need to learn to handle. They need to pick themselves up and go on and try to win the league now.”

The pain on the faces of the Rangers players at full-time was clear to see, and Kirkwood, himself disappointed, hopes to use that experience to ensure it is something the players don’t taste too much in the future.

He added: “It starts with the staff, and the hurt and disappointment from the staff. We will need to impart our knowledge and put the demands on them to lift themselves and pick themselves up to go on and try to win the league.

“It’s been a great season, but disappointing tonight with the way we played in the first half hour – and it’s disappointing for them more than anything else with the profile of it being live on TV an being written about in the press.

“There was an expectation level, and they have to take that from 17s to 20s and hopefully then to the first team.”

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