Blood and guts favour Dons

Aberdeen 0 Rangers 0
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The Independent Online

Rangers failed to seize the chance to briefly go top of the SPL but at least they can console themselves that they did not lose this chance-lite lunchtime match in which Aberdeen had a decent penalty shout denied.

The referee, Calum Murray, either did not see Rangers' David Weir pull Lee Miller to the ground inside the area in the 60th minute or adjudged Miller had played a role in the tussle. Whatever, the game ended in a stalemate, and instead of moving top Rangers closed the gap on Celtic to a point, although Celtic's victory over Hibs then stretched the lead to four.

Aberdeen had won their previous six matches at Pittodrie but their manager, Jimmy Calderwood, said he was happy with a point, and had no quibbles about not getting the penalty. "I didn't see it clearly, and anyway they had a claim too [for a ball-to-hand incident, with no penalty given] so it evens out... we didn't really create much and we didn't deserve more than a point."

Calderwood's counterpart, WalterSmith, showed his respect for Aber-deen in his starting line-up, dropping the 22-goal Kris Boyd to the bench so he could accommodate a holding midfielder, Lee McCulloch, to stymie the hosts and act as added protection at set-pieces. Celtic conceded four goals here to set-pieces last week.

Kenny Miller thus played alone up front for Rangers, albeit with assistance from the 17-year-old John Fleck, who played wide left but acted as a complementary forward when he could. Fleck's first chance came insidefour minutes, a shot from the left that curled over the bar.

McCulloch handed the Dons their opening opportunity by fouling Sone Aluko. Charlie Mulgrew powered his free-kick from just outside the area towards the left side of the net, forcing Allan McGregor to throw himself to his right to push the ball wide. Another Mulgrew free-kick just before half-time (held) and a third in the 89th minute, from which Darren Mackie headed just over, were as close as Aberdeen came to scoring.

Rangers had more possession and better efforts on goals but still nothing clear-cut. Miller and Steven Davis combined to set up Barry Ferguson, whose shot was deflected wide. Fleck showed great promise with a number of runs, though with greater composure he might have finished some moves with a flourish rather than a whimper.

Miller fluffed one chance when McCulloch's shot was spilled by Jamie Langfield, who was replaced in goal by Bert Bossu early in the second half after taking a knock. Miller headed over from Kirk Broadfoot's cross and had a shot blocked before being replaced by Boyd, whose best effort was a header, held.

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