Football: Boyle volley blocks Rangers

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

ON ONE of their most uncomfortable nights of the season, Rangers surrendered a one-goal lead to a late volley by Jimmy Boyle having led through a John Brown header from 35 minutes, and the dropped point will come as good news to their main challengers, Celtic and Aberdeen, who meet at Celtic Park tonight.

Darkest Lanarkshire on a cold December night is no place to enjoy yourself, and Broomfield Park is not a venue accustomed to silky soccer. The players fight like terriers and the inhabitants of the terracing can be just as mean and nasty. Win or lose, not many visitors enjoy the experience.

For Rangers this was one of those potentially difficult away games on a tight pitch faced with a partisan home crowd and a team fired up for the occasion.

With youngsters Gary McSwegan and Steven Pressley in the line-up, Rangers had difficulty finding their usual fluency against battling Airdrieonians who made life difficult for them at times.

Midway through the first half the home side forced a succession of unfruitful corners, but by then Rangers had allowed themselves to become embroiled physically to the detriment of their overall play.

There had been few clear-cut chances before Rangers took the lead in 35 minutes and, in keeping with proceedings, the goal was functional rather than aesthetic. A Gary Stevens shot was deflected over the bar and, from Mikhailichenko's inswinging corner, John Brown had a simple header at the near post. Before the break John Martin, the Airdrie keeper, prevented a second Rangers goal with a fine save from Ian Ferguson.

Rangers resumed without full-back Stevens, who was replaced by Dale Gordon with Trevor Steven filling in at right-back. Airdrie's second half efforts saw a Boyle shot flash across the face of goal, then nippy forward Alan Lawrence cut inside Pressley but his good work was wasted by Paul Jack who did little more than toe-poke his cross towards Andy Goram. At that stage an equaliser did not look beyond Airdrie.

Rangers though would have none of it and a few minutes later Gordon carelessly headed a Mikhailichenko corner over the bar.

With three minutes remaining, Jimmy Sandison flighted a free-kick into the penalty area which was licked on for Boyle to volley past Goram, much to the delight of all concerned with Airdrie's cause.

Airdrieonians: Martin; Kidd, Stewart, Sandison, Caesar, Black, Boyle, Balfour (Smith 70), Lawrence (Conn 89), Jack, Kirkwood.

Rangers: Goram; Stevens (Gordon h/t), D Robertson, Durrant, Pressley, Brown, Steven, Ferguson, McSwegan, Hateley, Mikhailichenko. Substitute not used: Huistra.

Referee: W Crombie (Edinburgh).