Football: Thern keeps Rangers in the hunt

Rangers 2 Negri 27, Thern 56 St Johnstone 1 Kernaghan 15 A ttendance: 49,788
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The Independent Online
"GAZZA must stay" echoed round Ibrox all day, but whether the League title will remain here is another matter. At least Jonas Thern allowed the ailing champions to retain an interest. The Swede's stunning 56th-minute goal soothed another nervy day at the office for Rangers.

The focus of attention at Ibrox was as much off the pitch as on it, with both Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup on the bench and the Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore - who insisted he was in Glasgow to watch Gazza - in the stand. Gascoigne is still stalling over the offer from Middlesbrough and Collymore hinted in a pre-match radio interview that his troubled friend may yet remain at Rangers.

St Johnstone have been fumbling for their form as much as the champions recently and Jorg Albertz came close to extending that misery with two fine pieces of play in the opening 11 minutes. The German international's crossfield pass in the third minute picked out Marco Negri, who held the ball up before returning the favour to Albertz, who just failed to stab his cross in at the back post.

Albertz then struck the post with a fierce left-foot shot and Rangers paid for that when St Johnstone took the lead with a stunning 14th-minute goal by Alan Kernaghan. Paul Kane's free kick was flicked on by Stuart McClusky for Kernaghan to crash a 20-yard volley past Andy Goram.

The Rangers fans demanded the immediate presence of Gascoigne but what they got was Laudrup, who replaced Craig Moore in the 24th minute and the Dane created the equaliser within three minutes. Laudrup raced clear on the right thanks to a pass from Thern before chipping St Johnstone's badly positioned debutant keeper, Stephen Robertson, and Negri was lurking with intent in the six yard box to score.

Saints' winger Gerard McMahon could have restored the visitors' advantage almost immediately but his shot rifled off the bar and only the alertness of Goram prevented Paddy Connolly from scoring a minute before half-time.

Roddy Grant should have punished Rangers in the 49th minute after Connolly had set him up, but the St Johnstone striker was too slow to profit and his side rued those missed chances seven minutes later.

Rangers capitalised on a period of pressure when Thern put them ahead. Albertz's corner was knocked out to Thern on the edge of the area and the Swedish midfielder sent a thunderous 25-yard volley through a thicket of players into the net.

The Rangers fans finally got what they wanted when Gascoigne came on in the 71st minute for Ally McCoist.