An unprecedented quadruple for Rangers remains possible, but only just, after Partick Thistle threatened a second Cup upset last night. The hosts equalised to take this quarter-final to a replay. Damon Gray put the visitors ahead in style, against the run of play, in the second half before Kris Boyd pounced to keep Rangers' hopes alive.
Their status as odds-on favourites for the Cup had tightened before kick-off, following Tuesday's shocking defeat for the holders, Celtic, at home to Aberdeen. Rangers' manager, Walter Smith, showed every sign he wanted to steamroller Thistle. While he started Sunday's CIS Cup win over Dundee United without a recognised striker, here three forwards took their places from the off. Boyd partnered Nacho Novo up front with Stevie Naismith on the right wing. The hosts were, though, without their injured captain, Barry Ferguson, while other first-teamers, including the veteran centre-half David Weir, were rested or on the substitutes' bench.
Thistle are mid-table in Scotland's second tier and while they were feisty and sporadically pesky in the first half, clear-cut chances were limited. The best in the half fell to Gray, whose diagonal shot from the right of the area across goal was tipped past the post by Allan McGregor.
The hosts had more frequent sights of goal, but their focus was too often blurred and a string of misses left them frustrated at half-time. Novo blasted wide in the ninth minute and Boyd headed over just afterwards; Charlie Adam then scuffed an effort that looped high and left and Novo headed over just before the break, from Kirk Broadfoot's cross.
Rangers continued to attack without an end product for 20 minutes after the interval, streaming forward in numbers, and with Chris Burke on for Adam, with added thrust. But that left them vulnerable to a counter-punch and Thistle landed one in spectacular fashion when Gray dashed free on the right, moving into the box to slide a shot under McGregor.
Nine of the visiting players piled into an ecstatic section of the travelling support to celebrate, briefly at least. Brief, too, was the lead. Within a minute, a goalmouth scramble at the other end concluded with Boyd tapping home the equaliser.
Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor; Broadfoot, Cuellar, Dailly, Whittaker; Naismith, (McCulloch, 72) Davis, Thomson, Adam (Burke, 58); Novo, Boyd. Substitutes not used: Alexander (gk), Smith, Furman.
Partick Thistle (4-4-2): Tuffey; Storey, Robertson, Archibald, Twaddle; Chaplain (McStay, 90), Rowson, Harkins, Donnelly (McKinlay, 70); Roberts, Gray (Murray, 84). Substitutes not used: Hinchcliffe (gk), Kinniburgh.
Referee: I Brines (Scotland)Reuse content