McCoist feels heat after Rangers draw with Hearts

Rangers 1 Heart of Midlothian 1
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The Independent Football

There was muted booing, but mostly the final whistle was greeted with a sense of acceptance. Ally McCoist would have wanted to start his managerial career with a greater flourish, but he could take encouragement from the way his side had regathered their poise after falling behind. That was what this opening game of the season came down to: small comforts.

Rangers' performance could not match the triumphalism of the ceremony before kick-off, in which the championship flag was raised. The celebration of a 54th league title only emphasised the scale of the task facing McCoist now he has succeeded Walter Smith. McCoist is expected to be triumphant too, and he looked pensive afterwards.

Rangers play Malmo in the Champions League third qualifying round first leg on Tuesday. The Swedish side are well into their season, while McCoist's team look short of the sharpness that comes from a series of competitive games. They were a little aimless before the interval here, and better after. "We were disappointing in the first half," McCoist said. "But as disappointed as I was, I was pleased with the reaction of the players. We could have nicked the game, although it might have been an injustice."

Hearts opened the scoring when David Obua was left unmarked to head in Danny Grainger's corner, and the visitors would have added to their advantage if Allan McGregor had not been so alert in the Rangers goal. The home side were familiar in all but their lack of authority – Madjid Bougherra remains prone to impulsiveness, Steven Davis is their best source of invention, Steven Naismith brings drive and Nikica Jelavic is imposing up front. But these traits were displayed only fleetingly in the first half and the defence was vulnerable without the suspended David Weir.

It took a switch to 4-5-1 to bring some forcefulness and Rangers should have scored three times in two minutes after the break. Davis saw his shot saved and Naismith headed and then shot over the bar. Naismith equalised when he headed Sasa Papac's cross past Marian Kello.

As Rangers look to strengthen their squad, talks are ongoing with the representatives of the Romanian defender Dorin Goian. There is time yet for McCoist's reign to gather momentum.

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