Rangers on brink as Smith bemoans 'lack of pressure'

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The Independent Football

The Rangers manager, Walter Smith, lamented the "lack of pressure" his side had been put under as they took a large step towards the Scottish Premier League title by beating Hearts 2-0 yesterday.

Second-half goals from Kyle Lafferty and Kenny Miller, the latter a penalty, means Rangers will be champions without playing again if Celtic lose to Dundee United on Saturday.

Smith admitted his team, who dropped points at Dundee United on Wednesday, had been poor against Hearts. "I felt it was vitally important we managed to get a win today,'' he said. "Though we were poor in the first half, we stepped it up in the second half and in the end we could have won by more goals.

"It's a lack of pressure that's causing us a problem. We've been in an unusual situation in that, since around nine games to go people have been telling us we're champions.''

Miller's 20th goal of the season came courtesy of a penalty after Eggert Jonsson was shown a straight red card for a shove on Steven Naismith. The Hearts manager, Jim Jefferies, said: "I've not seen the second one but the players thought it was a bit soft. I thought we were very comfortable in the first half and passed the ball about well. The first goal was always going to settle Rangers down but, if we had got it, they might have got a little nervous.''

Goals in the last 10 minutes from Marc-Antoine Fortuné and substitute Morten Rasmussen had earned Celtic a 3-2 victory over Hibernian on Saturday and meant Rangers would have to wait to wrap up the title. It was Celtic's fourth consecutive win in the SPL since Neil Lennon replaced Tony Mowbray as manager. "My worry is, we have won two home games... can we replicate that away from home?" Lennon admitted, looking forward to the weekend's visit to Tannadice. "Dundee United is a huge game. We have talked about turning points a lot this season. My worry is that they put on a performance like that and next week it's flat again. So I have got to be really wary of that against a very well organised, hard-to-beat Dundee United side."

At the bottom, Aberdeen eased their relegation worries with a 1-0 home win over bottom club Falkirk, while Kilmarnock crashed 3-0 at Hamilton and St Mirren were denied a much-needed victory at St Johnstone by Paul Sheerin's late penalty.