Maybe Alex McLeish could not bear to look. The Rangers manager was not at Ibrox yesterday, but at least his team did not hand the Scottish Premier League title to Celtic by slipping up against doomed Partick Thistle.
Perhaps McLeish was scouting for new players, but two of his more recent recruits, Steven Thompson and Gavin Rae, secured the win that will not, however, prevent their Old Firm rivals embracing the championship if they win at Kilmarnock today.
The sides were separated by 53 points before kick-off, and the gulf seemed even greater at times in the first half. Rangers stroked the ball around, while the bottom club stood off and watched in a lethargic mood that contrasted with the feistiness that has been a characteristic of their season.
Indeed, had Jamie Langfield not reacted quickly then Partick would have been chasing this contest after just nine minutes. The keeper superbly pushed over a glancing header from Michael Mols. Moments later, Andy Thomson made a valuable block to keep out a header from Zurab Khizanishvili, and it seemed only a matter of time before the modest Ibrox audience had a goal to cheer.
The effervescent Chris Burke was dancing past tackles on the right, and won a corner just before the half-hour that he swung into the path of Rae. The midfielder measured up a volley that flew narrowly wide.
However, five minutes before the interval, Rangers got the reward their play deserved. Mikel Arteta delivered a free-kick to the far post, where Alan Hutton headed back into the path of Thompson. The forward lunged in and stabbed a shot past Langfield from close range.
Langfield then prevented Arteta from doubling the advantage, touching the Spanish midfielder's free-kick over the bar. But there was little that the goalkeeper could do when Rae beat him just four minutes into the second half.
A quick exchange between Fernando Ricksen and Hutton opened up Partick. The latter threaded a fine pass into the run of Rae, who took advantage of Adrian Madaschi's indecision and lashed a fierce right-foot shot past Langfield from 14 yards.
Sadly, a torpor descended on Ibrox after that. The only time the crowd (the official figure of 49,279 betrayed the many empty seats) were roused came when Frank de Boer curled a free-kick just wide. By the time his twin brother, Ronald, contributed the best moment of the game, there was barely anyone around to witness it.
Two minutes from the end, Ronald controlled Frank's long pass and showed great vision to lob Langfield - but the goalkeeper recovered to make a remarkable save.
Rangers 2 Partick Thistle 0
Thompson 40, Rae 49
Half-time 1-0 Attendance: 49,279
- More about:
- Alex Mcleish
- Celtic F.c.
- Kilmarnock F.c.
- Mikel Arteta
- Rangers Fc
- Scottish Premier League