Football: Rangers hit a purple patch

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The Independent Online
Rangers. . . 3

Huistra 69, Hateley 75, 76

Kilmarnock. .0

Attendance: 44,919

BACK HOME again, Rangers found all their old habits and failings - sloppy passing and poor tackling - waiting for them. For the second time this season Kilmarnock caused widespread panic and anxiety until late in the match when the Premier Division's most potent striker took over.

Mark Hateley took it upon himself to subdue the Rugby Park side and disperse the frustration which was settling over another vast Ibrox audience.

Kilmarnock were unlucky to fall a goal behind after 69 minutes when Pietr Huistra, who had replaced the ponderous Alexei Mikhailichenko only seven minutes earlier, scored. But before they could gulp in oxygen and exert further pressure on a shaky Rangers defence, the game was dragged beyond recovery.

Gordon Durie's long-range shot in the 75th minute was saved well by Kilmarnock's keeper, Bobby Geddes, but he couldn't clasp the ball which bounced free. Hateley pounced and Rangers were two up.

A minute later Trevor Steven struck a sweet pass through the heart of Kilmarnock's defence and Hateley was homing in again. He ran through a couple of half-hearted challenges and knocked the ball in for his 23rd goal of the season.

Kilmarnock, who had the audacity to beat Rangers at Ibrox last August, thereby ending the champions 18-month unbeaten run at home, were bereft of ideas. It was all they could do to avoid further hurt and Rangers were able to play out time comfortably.

However, until Hateley's contributions Rangers had been struggling to break down the opposition's defensive forces, which have been sound for most of the season. But it was probably inevitable that Kilmarnock, like many before them, would suffer at the feet of Hateley, who continues to amaze.

Rangers' three goals in that devastating six-minute second- half spell kept them at the top of the League. With the other would-be champions struggling to press their claims elsewhere, the Ibrox side finally might be about to head off alone over the horizon.