Heart of Midlothian 0 Rangers 4: Darcheville and Novo on hand to punish Hearts

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The Independent Online

There was still half an hour on the clock last night when Rangers' travelling support began to sing "It's coming home, it's coming home".

They mean the SPL trophy, of course, a piece of silverware absent from Ibrox since 2005, and this casual tearing apart of opponents weakened again by boardroom diktats keeps them on target to get it back.

Jean-Claude Darcheville scored twice, as did his half-time replacement, Nacho Novo, as Rangers romped to a 10th consecutive SPL win that maintains their four-point lead over Celtic this morning.

"We were very good tonight," said Rangers' manager, Walter Smith, whose side lost 4-2 at this venue in September. "[Last time] was one of our worst performances and this was among the best. I'm delighted. Now we just have to keep winning."

Hearts, early-season relegation fodder, had steadied since their caretaker manager, Stevie Frail, was handed full control of first-team matters, as opposed to being told who to pick by the club's owner, Vladimir Romanov. But the tycoon's fingerprints are still smudged everywhere, and Romanov evidently not only considers that the season is effectively over but also that Tynecastle is a perfect clearing house for a quick profit on players.

Why else would he sell Andrius Velicka this week? Velicka, 28, was on loan in Edinburgh from Romanov's Lithuanian club, Kaunas, and has been Hearts' leading scorer this season. But as soon as an offer was made that allowed Romanov to cash in – Viking Stavanger bid £1m – Velicka was on his way. But Romanov seems to think: "With no hope of Europe, no threat of relegation, and no cups to play for, why keep him?"

Hearts' lack of cutting edge was embarrassing. "Toothless," Frail admitted. "A poor performance that I didn't see coming." His side forced precisely no saves whatsoever.

Still, Rangers played high-tempo, total control football from the off. Steven Davis and Barry Ferguson combined to set up Darcheville's first goal. The second came from Ferguson's corner, headed back across goal by Carlos Cuellar. Naismith swiped at the ball, which fell to Darcheville, who scrambled in.

Darcheville, job done, was replaced by Novo, who netted with a tap-in then a back-heel, both from Charlie Adam crosses.

Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2): Banks; Neilson, Karipidis, Berra, Goncalves (Ksanavicius, 54); Cesnauskis (Mikoliunas, h-t), Wallace, Jonsson (Zaliukas, 64), Palazuelos; Elliot, Nade. Substitutes not used: Basso (gk), Ivaskevicius, Tall, Mole.

Rangers (4-5-1): McGregor; Broadfoot, Cuellar, Weir, Whittaker; Naismith, Dailly, Ferguson, Davis (Thomson, 85), Adam; Darcheville (Novo, h-t). Substitutes not used: Alexander (gk), Boyd, Cousin, Furman, Lennon.

Referee: S Dougal.

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