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IVAN GOLAC, Dundee United's flamboyant manager, left Ibrox yesterday complaining that his side had been denied a penalty at a crucial point in the match. But it was not a refereeing decision that cost the Tannadice side a confidence-boosting win before meeting Rangers in the Scottish Cup final on 21 May.
United lost because they failed to withstand Rangers' pressure, which became severe only after they had fallen behind to a Christian Dailly goal scored two minutes into the second half.
The first half had been uneventful apart from a rash of bookings for clumsy tackling. Golac, whose team finished the half pushing forward, decided to add more threat up front by keeping Andy McLaren indoors and releasing Jerren Nixon. The winger from a small village in Trinidad and Tobago made an instant impact.
Nixon went down the left wing on 47 minutes in pursuit of Jim McInally's pass, leaving Rangers' John Brown in his wake. The winger reached the line and cut the ball across for the unmarked Dailly.
Two minutes later Dailly fell in the penalty area after a Dave McPherson tackle, but the referee, Jim McCluskey, dismissed all claims. 'All over the world that would have been a penalty,' said Golac, whose side had won 3-0 last time they were at Ibrox.
However, Rangers finally began to play and Gordon Durie equalised after 64 minutes from a Trevor Steven cross. The striker's winner, his 12th goal in 20 Premier-division matches, duly arrived 12 minutes from time, with Steven's cross again doing the damage. Rangers stay seven points in front at the top of the table and could clinch their sixth successive title next Saturday in an Old Firm encounter.
First they will play second-placed Motherwell at Fir Park on Tuesday night and another victory would leave them requiring one more win to wrap up serious league business.
The Ibrox side are anxious to secure the championship soon so that they can turn exclusively to the Scottish Cup final, which both Golac and the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, say will be played differently. Golac claims his team should carry more threat with their main scorer, Craig Brewster, available after suspension.Reuse content