Football: Aberdeen hold Rangers but still slide

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The Independent Online
The fortunes of Aberdeen's season were thrown into sharp focus on Saturday, when they drew with Rangers and dropped to bottom place in the Scottish Premier Division.

The Dons sacked Roy Aitken earlier in the week, leaving Keith Burkinshaw in charge and, as so often happens in such circumstances, the players responded by lifting their game to record their second draw against Rangers this season.

An Eoin Jess goal on the stroke of half-time gave Aberdeen the lead and it took an equaliser from Jorg Albertz to save a point for the champions. Motherwell's surprise win at Celtic saw them overtake Aberdeen at the bottom, leaving a considerable challenge facing the next manager at Pittodrie.

The Aberdeen board has identified four or five suitable candidates for the post and will go through the necessary selection process over the next two weeks. Despite claims that Tommy Burns and Alex Miller are favourites for the job, the directors are determined to take their time and identify the right candidate.

While Rangers approach Wednesday's Old Firm game in the knowledge that Paul Gascoigne will be back in their side, Celtic are preparing for the second meeting of the two clubs this season with two defeats behind them, the latest Saturday's 2-0 reverse at Motherwell's hands. To add to their misery, Regi Blinker was ordered off for appearing to elbow Kevin Christie in the face.

He will be severely dealt with by the club, who know that Rangers have held the upper hand in these meetings over the years, Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, having lost only five of the 25 Old Firm league matches during his time in charge.

For all the efforts of Rangers and Celtic, though, it is Hearts who sit proudly at the top of the Premier Division. They continue to confound those who would insist their tenure is temporary, and on Saturday they demonstrated that they might have the will to win that was missing in the past when they fought for the entire 90 minutes against St Johnstone, winning 2-1 thanks to a penalty scored in injury time.

Hearts are three points ahead of Rangers and six ahead of Celtic, and will no doubt hope for a Celtic win in Wednesday's game.

Hearts' Edinburgh rivals, Hibs, have now lost six games in a row after going down 2-1 to Dunfermline, while Dundee United are in fourth place after coming from behind to beat Kilmarnock.

- David McKinney

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