Football: Rangers' success undermines Burns

Scottish round-up
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The Independent Online
It is not yet mathematically certain but anyone with a sense of realism will concede that Rangers have effectively won their ninth successive Premier Division title, an achievement based latterly as much on Celtic's failures as their own successes.

A 4-0 win over Dunfermline that included a goal by Mark Hateley was only the second victory in five League games for Rangers, but with Celtic held by Raith Rovers, the bottom club, Rangers' lead is now nine points with four games remaining. It will take a win and a draw in those matches for Rangers to equal the record of their city rivals.

Once again Celtic dropped points at a crucial time. They have failed to win important games against Kilmarnock, Motherwell and now Raith, all of whom are fighting relegation, and for the first time in the history of the Premier Division they lost all four fixtures with Rangers.

The lack of success on the field will inevitably result in repercussions off it, with the future of Tommy Burns, the Celtic manager, being the subject of furious debate over the last few weeks. Also Paul McStay, the captain, will not be offered a new contract. Burns, of course, will not concede the title until he must but that time is fast approaching.

While the title fight appears to have been settled the scramble at the bottom continues, with Kilmarnock and Hibernian increasing their advantage over second-bottom Motherwell.

Kilmarnock beat Hearts while Hibs ended Dundee United's 17-game unbeaten run. Motherwell, meanwhile, remain in the play-off place despite a goalless draw at Aberdeen and they now trail Hibs by five points and Kilmarnock by six. It is increasingly likely they will face Airdrie - who increased their lead over third-placed Dundee by five points with a comfortable 4-1 win over Clydebank - in the play-off.

St Johnstone, the leaders, have a 10-point advantage and are virtually assured of a place in the Premier Division next season.