Football: McCoist sustains Rangers' dream

Rangers 3 Hibernian 0
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The Independent Online
THE season's prizes once again beckon for Rangers who produced a supreme second-half performance to dispense with Hibernian last night and move level with Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premier Division.

The pressure will now revert to their major rivals, and to a degree to Hearts, both of whom are in league business next week to fulfil fixtures cancelled because of the weekend's Scottish Cup semi-final. For Rangers the season could hinge on two games within seven days against Celtic in the cup and the league.

Against a hesitant Hibernian side, Rangers forced the pace in the first period, but at the same time demonstrated a lack of flair in creating chances that has been the feature of recent performances.

Stuart McCall shot over the bar from a free-kick in the 16th minute and Marco Negri brought out a fine save from Bryan Gunn a minute later as Hibernian opted to lie deep and accept the Rangers pressure.

Gradually, however, the visitors ventured forward and it took a fine save by Antti Niemi, preferred in goal to Andy Goram, to push over a powerful Stevie Crawford drive. Shortly afterwards Justin Skinner mis-hit a shot from a poor Richard Gough clearance. If Rangers had hoped for an easy night, Hibernian were making them wait for it.

Rangers eventually reached the comfort zone when the game was decided with two goals in the space of two minutes. Ally McCoist, the striker who has rediscovered his scoring touch at the right time, got his head to a Jorg Albertz free-kick in the 56th minute to power the ball into the net. It was his fourth goal in the last four league games and proof that the desire to win a 10th league title burns as strongly as ever.

Albertz supplied the ammunition for the second Rangers goal, evading a tackle on the left before cutting the ball back to Jonas Thern who shot first time into the top corner. Rangers' third goal was scored to ecstatic acclaim as Gordon Durie, playing his first game since a bad head injury in February, scored with an angled drive 15 minutes from time.

Rangers (4-3-3): Niemi; Moore, Petric, Gough, Cleland; Thern, Albertz, McCall; McCoist (Durie, 73), Negri, Laudrup (Gattuso, 77). Substitute not used: Durrant.

Hibernian (4-4-2): Gunn; Miller, Dods, Welsh, Bocco; Skinner (Renwick, 82), Brebner, McGinlay, Rougier; Crawford, Tosh (Dow, 69). Substitutes not used: Elliot.

Referee: M McCurry (Glasgow).

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