Football: Hateley stamps the Rangers hallmark

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St Johnstone. . . . . . . . . . .0

WHILE others who would be Premier Division champions were dropping points, Rangers were edging closer to the top of the table by dismissing a feeble challenge from St Johnstone with the minimum of fuss.

The Ibrox side are not yet into their true stride, but they are beginning to look again like champions. Even though they are still hampered by injuries to several key players Rangers got the job done in that calm, unhurried style which has become their hallmark.

What they did yesterday was not especially exciting but it was effective and too much for a St Johnstone side that had arrived in Glasgow optimistic of stealing a point. They had lost only one away game in their previous 11, but this was their first stop-off this season at Ibrox, a ground where they have not won since 1971. Rangers, needing a lift before next Sunday's League Cup final, were not about to be generous.

In fact, they declared their intention in 12 minutes, when Ian Ferguson's free-kick dropped perfectly for Mark Hateley. The striker's header found Pieter Huistra and he took great delight in scoring his third goal in two matches.

The Dutchman,who cannot command a regular first-team place when all of Rangers' personnel are healthy, has been impressive recently and has already made certain of his place in the cup final. So, too, has Hateley, probably the best buy any Scottish club has made in the past decade.

He is aplayer who threatens in the air and on the ground, where his powerful running allied to a decent touch has created numerous goals for others. Ally McCoist, the club's top scorer last season with 49 goals, has been the main beneficiary and it will have done the hopes of the other teams no good at all to know these two strikers are back in business.

McCoist had played only one game since breaking a leg last April but he is back hungry for goals, which will surely come when he recovers full sharpness. He was withdrawn towards the end of yesterday's match because the management have no wish to rush him, and Ian Durrant, another player who has suffered badly through injury and is now used sparingly, took over.

By that time Hateley had scored the second goal and disabused St Johnstone of any notion of escaping with a draw. Seven minutes into the second half Hateley peeled away to the far post when he saw Gary Stevens motoring down the right and was already rising as the ball drifted across. Hateley's header left Andy Rhodes stranded.

St Johnstone were unable to raise their game and could only watch as Rangers knocked the ball around until it was time to go home.