Heart Of Midlothian 0 Rangers 1: Novo eases Rangers' strife as Hearts gloom deepens

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The Independent Online

Nacho Novo scored his fourth goal in seven games in a game lacking quality at a downcast Tynecastle yesterday to earn Rangers their first back-to-back League wins of the season. But the story of the day was Heart of Midlothian's continued spiral into chaos.

They are without a win since 1 October and have dropped to fifth. Their captain, Steven Pressley, who led a players' revolt against the methods of the club's owner, Vladimir Romanov, spent the whole 90 minutes on the bench.

Hundreds of fans protested against an absent Romanov afterwards, and a sizeable minority booed some of their own players in the belief that Romanov has been ordering certain selections on the basis of nationality, not talent. Rumours continue of discord in the dressing-room, and of a plot - by a contingent of players controlled by Romanov - to oust Pressley.

Hearts' vice-captain, Paul Hartley, said. "The fans don't like what's going on. A lot of us don't like what's going on." Romanov has seen his stock plummet as his meddling in team affairs and sacking of managers has led to chronic instability. Eugenijus Riabovas, Hearts' seventh coach in 18 months, starts work today.

Rangers' own recent woes have been slightly alleviated but their manager, Paul Le Guen, said: "We have to keep working hard."

Novo's goal was typical of the game. He picked up the ball, hit it from distance and was lucky with a bobble.

A large number of the visiting fans upped their sectarian chanting, and some threw missiles. It was not an edifying afternoon.

Goal: Novo (78) 0-1.

Heart of Midlothian (3-4-1-2): Gordon; Tall, Berra, Zaliukas; Barasa, Brellier, Aguiar, Wallace (Goncalves, h-t); Hartley; Mole (Mikoliunas, 60), Velicka. Substitutes not used: MacDonald (gk), Pressley, Neilson, Jankauskas, Karipidis.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Hemdani, Svensson, Smith; Novo, Ferguson, Clement, Adam; Boyd, Prso. Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Buffel, Papac, Rae, Sionko, Sebo, Martin.

Referee: D McDonald.

Booked: Hearts Zaliukas, Hartley; Rangers Hutton, Clement, Novo, Smith, Boyd.

Man of the match: Ferguson.

Attendance: 17,046.

* Celtic warmed up for their crucial Group F meeting with Manchester United in the Champions' League at Celtic Park tomorrow night with a 3-0 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday. Darren Dods put through his own goal in the 43rd minute before second-half goals by Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Jiri Jarosik secured the points for Celtic, whose performance "pleased" their manager, Gordon Strachan.

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