Lafferty's touch has Rangers nine clear

Rangers 1 Hibernian 0
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The Independent Football

When every effort is strained and anxiety prevails, it is the small mercies that a team has to grasp. Rangers' performance became an earnest toil, and there was long enough when it looked as thoughall of the grind would be worthless, so the goal whenit eventually came felt to them like relief.

Kyle Lafferty's deft touch inside the six-yard box converted Gregg Wylde's cross, and if the game itself might be easily discarded from memory, the significance of the strike will linger. The victory moves Rangers nine points clear of second-place Motherwell and 10 points ahead of Celtic, a considerable lead, even if Neil Lennon's side play Hearts at Tynecastle today and have another game in hand.

Rangers will accept the result as it came, because they spent so much of the game gathering regrets. Wylde spurned two opportunities early in the first-half, then Nikica Jelavic shot straight at Graham Stack, the Hibernian goalkeeper. When Steven Whittaker fired a penalty over just before the interval, after Lafferty had been brought down, it summed up the home side's misfortunes.

"We didn't have conviction in front of goal," said Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager.

Yet Rangers dominated, and all that the visitors had to show for their second-half display was Junior Agogo being sent clean through, only to see his shot saved by Allan McGregor, the Rangers goalkeeper.

Jamie Ness's arrival as a half-time substitute brought some refinement of thought and distribution to the Rangers midfield, but chances continued to be wasted. Maurice Edu fired over, and Lafferty failed to connect in front of goal.

Rangers found reward in persistence, and refusing to succumb to despair. "It was their quality that won them the game," said Colin Calderwood, the Hibs manager.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Whittaker, Goian, Bocanegra, Papac; Bedoya (Ness, 46), Davis, Edu, Wylde; Jelavic, Lafferty (Wallace, 85).

Hibernian (4-4-2): Stack; Palsson (Sodje, 85), O'Hanlon, Murray, Hanlon; Scott, (Wotherspoon, 75), Towell, Osbourne, Sproule (Griffiths, 75); Agogo, O'Connor.

Referee Martin Atkinson.

Man of the match Davis (Rangers).

Match rating 3/10.