Hibernian 2 Rangers 1: McLeish facing exit as Rangers hit 133-year low

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The Independent Football

McLeish said afterwards: "I'm not a quitter." He reiterated that he would not resign, despite only two wins in 14 games, and none in the past eight in all competitions - the longest winless streak in Rangers' 133-year history.

The onus lies instead with David Murray, the Rangers chairman, who would already have sacked McLeish if his preferred replacement had been available. McLeish has until early next month to keep his job. Progressing to the knockout stages in the Champions' League might help him but even that is no longer certain.

Rangers are 15 points behind the table-topping Celtic, 14 behind Hearts and now 11 behind Hibernian.

Hibs, for whom Best played between November 1979 and October 1980, were superb at times yesterday, with first-half goals from Derek Riordan and Garry O'Connor the least they deserved for their dominance. "We got battered in the first half," McLeish said. "That first 45 minutes is the best that any team has played against us this season."

McLeish's woes were compounded by a stoppage-time sending-off for his captain, Barry Ferguson, for a second bookable offence.

Best's Northern Irish compatriot, Ivan Sproule, was a constant threat for Hibs, while Scott Brown worked tirelessly in midfield. Sproule and O'Connor combined to make several chances before the opening goal, which arrived via a Guillaume Beuzelin pass, a Sproule dash and cross, and a Riordan finish. Riordan then supplied O'Connor for 2-0.

Rangers improved in the second half but had already lost the game. In the first half they were wasteful, slow, sloppy and outwitted. It would have been hard not to get better, and they did.

Chris Burke embarked on a promising slalom run that ended when he collided with Hibs' Gary Smith. No foul, said the referee, apparently harshly. Ross McCormack, a hero in Europe with a goal in midweek in Porto, then blasted over, as did Hamed Namouchi, in front of an open goal, a while later. Before that, Ferguson had pulled a goal back for Rangers, his shot taking a deflection off Gary Caldwell. And Sproule had gone close at the other end after a jinking, twisting run that ended with a low shot just wide.

With 18 minutes left Riordan's curling right-footed free-kick from 22 yards sailed just past the right top angle of the goal. And with five minutes left Sproule was thwarted in a one-on-one with Ronald Waterreus.

The gap in quality was greater than the scoreline suggests. Which is not quite as wide as the gap between reality and McLeish's claim that "this looks like a crisis but it's not reached the point of no return".

Goals: Riordan (18) 1-0; O'Connor (25) 2-0; Ferguson (59) 2-1.

Hibernian (4-3-3): Malkowski; Whittaker, Caldwell, Smith, Glass; Brown, Beuzelin, Thomson (Shiels, 90); Riordan (Morrow, 89), O'Connor (Fletcher, 75), Sproule. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Hogg, McDonald, Morrow, Rudge.

Rangers: (4-4-2): Waterreus; Hutton, Andrews, Kyrgiakos, Murray; Burke (Lovenkrands, 60), Ferguson, Rae (Hemdani, 24), Namouchi; Jeffers (Thompson, h-t), McCormack. Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Malcolm, Pierre-Fanfan, Smith.

Referee: S Dougal (Scotland).

Booked: Hibs Brown; Rangers Rae, Ferguson. Sent off: Rangers Ferguson.

Man of the match: Riordan.

Attendance: 16,958.