Football: Rangers quick to fulfil promise: David McKinney looks at the opening blows of the new Scottish season

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IT IS always difficult to know how much to read into opening-day results but one inescapable conclusion from Saturday's action is that Rangers will again be hard to beat.

The Glasgow club opened the defence of their title with a 2-1 win over Hearts at Ibrox despite the absence of almost pounds 15m-worth of talent. Ally McCoist, Duncan Ferguson, Trevor Steven and Gary Stevens were among the wounded watching as David Hagen gave their light blues the lead in first-half injury-time and Mark Hateley added a second midway through the second period.

A late own-goal by John Brown was a consolation for Hearts who nevertheless played well under Sandy Clark their new manager, but Rangers' win underlines their determination to carry on where they finished last term.

Celtic and Aberdeen, seen as the two teams to stop Rangers, both opened with a draw. Celtic fought back from two goals down at Motherwell, Stuart Slater and Frank McAvennie scoring for the visiting side whose title hopes became more realistic on Friday night when John Collins, their skilful midfielder, signed a new three-year contract.

The club's plans to move to a new stadium in Cambuslang took a step closer with the news yesterday that Superstadia, their London-based company behind the project, have released pounds 2.4m to carry out the professional work necessary for a site investigation on the land where the proposed development would be built.

Like Celtic, Aberdeen had to come from behind on Saturday before earning a point against Dundee United who displayed a heartening brand of football under Ivan Golac, their recently appointed manager. Billy McKinlay scored a fine opportunist goal in the first half which was cancelled out by a Scott Booth strike for the Dons with 15 minutes left.

For the rest, a good start was essential in a season when three teams will be relegated. Newly promoted Kilmarnock duly delivered by beating Dundee with a single goal scored by Tom Brown.

The other Premier Division matches were drawn and on a pleasing note there was a welcome vitality about the opening day with encouraging crowds and games crackling with excitement. At Tannadice the kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes to allow the 15,000 crowd time to enter.

The relegated teams, Falkirk and Airdrie, started their First Division campaigns well with wins over Dunfermline and St Mirren. It took a last- minute goal from John Hughes to secure Falkirk's 3-2 victory while Peter Davenport, the former Nottingham Forest and Manchester United striker, played a part in Airdrie's single-goal win.

Sixteen of the 38 member clubs in the Scottish Football League will be relegated at the end of the season to accomodate future re-structuring and while an opening day defeat is no disaster, it will not be long before the sound of jangling nerves plays loudly on the ears.