Football: Dons fail home exam

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The Independent Online
Aberdeen. . . . .0

Rangers . . . . .0

Attendance: 21,500

RANGERS struck a telling blow in the defence of their Scottish championship by taking a point away to Aberdeen yesterday, despite yet another below-par display.

They owed much to the inspirational performance of their captain, Richard Gough, who was restored to the heart of the defence. He led by example to frustrate an Aberdeen team that dictated most of the proceedings but could not conjure up a decisive strike from all their efforts.

Both managers, Willie Miller and Walter Smith, blamed the cold wind that swirled around the ground for the lack of entertainment, but the outcome again underlined the poverty of talent on display at the highest levels of the Scottish game.

After just three minutes the Rangers full-back David Robertson was lucky to escape a booking for a wild tackle on his former team-mate Joe Miller and that incident set the tone for an untidy match.

Rangers were bereft of ideas except when Mark Hateley was called into play. Alex McLeish was forced to foul him on the edge of the area and from the free-kick Miller did exceptionally well to clear his line. At the other end a feckless pass back from Gough that was almost intercepted by Shearer tested the goalkeeper, Ally Maxwell, to the limit.

It took 35 minutes for the defending champions to muster their first serious attack, when the Ukrainian, Alexei Mikhailichenko, swept in a drive from the left to finish off a combined move. But Aberdeen's goalkeeper, Theo Snelders, was alert to the danger.

As the first half closed Rangers' appeals for a penalty were firmly rejected after the defender Brian Irvine brought down Gordon Durie. Snelders then had to make a full-length diving save to stop a close-range header from Mikhailichenko.

The tempo increased after the interval and four players were booked - Eoin Jess and Paul Kane of Aberdeen along with John Brown and Hateley.

In the 63rd minute, the substitute, Scott Booth, crossed accurately for Kane whose header was only a fraction off-target at the near post. Jess then ran past two defenders to finish with a drive from 25 yards that ended just beyond the far post.