Rangers thwarted by bold new boys

Rangers 0 Livingston 0
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The Independent Football

Explorers rarely have time to admire the scenery, but Livingston soaked up the sights yesterday. Ibrox was virgin territory for the newest members of the Scottish Premier League, but they quelled the hostile natives.

The celebrations which followed this goalless draw illustrated just how far this club have travelled in the last six years. And do not presume that Livingston made a lucky escape. If anything, it was Rangers who were grateful for a point after David Bingham's second-half header hit a post and somehow stayed out.

Jim Leishman's players were mobbed by their band of 1,000 fans, stuck in the corner of this cavernous stadium, as thousands in blue drifted away, unable to comprehend such a scoreline from a first league meeting with opponents who were the works team of the electronics company Ferranti until entering the Scottish League in 1974.

With Rangers awaiting the arrival of Everton's Michael Ball in a £6.5m move which would take Dick Advocaat's transfer spending to £80m in just three years, Livingston were indulging in their own fantasy football. Less than six years ago they were known as Meadowbank Thistle, ignored by the Edinburgh public and playing to a few hundred diehard fans in the Commonwealth Stadium, before moving 15 miles down the M8 to Livingston.

Since assuming a new identity, they have exchanged the Third Division for the Premier League with three promotions and the £8m investment of their owners Dominic Keane and John McGuiness ­ a former nurse who became a millionaire overnight when he won the National Lottery ­ bankrolled the First Division championship success last May. Their impressive Almondvale Stadium had its 10,000 seats filled last weekend for the club's top-flight baptism and were rewarded with a 2-1 win over Hearts.

David Fernandez, who had executed a stunning winner last Saturday, found his reputation had preceded him. Two scything tackles from Allan Johnston and Bert Konterman abruptly halted the Spanish striker's progress. Soon afterwards, Fernandez's compatriot Javier Broto required stitches to an eye wound after the goalkeeper was caught by Claudio Caniggia's boot, but that summed up Livingston: they knew no fear.

The composed passing of the newly promoted side, and their eagerness to get three men forward at every opportunity, was a breath of fresh air from the cautious philosophy of most visitors to Ibrox.

The pace of David Xausa frequently troubled Craig Moore, who was booked on the half-hour for scything down Fernandez. The Spaniard's short free-kick allowed Xausa to feint past Scott Wilson's challenge and thrash a raking shot which Stefan Klos was grateful to parry.

Advocaat found the parity which drew a torrent of jeers from the Ibrox crowd at half-time as unpalatable as the fans, and withdrew the laborious Tore Andre Flo for Michael Mols. The Dutch international has spent the last 20 months overcoming a knee injury, but he almost made an immediate impact, swivelling to unleash a venomous right-foot shot which Broto kept out with a one-handed save.

Livingston emulated that near miss nine minutes later. Barry Wilson displayed deft skill on the right flank and delivered a hanging cross which his captain Bingham met cleanly only to see his header strike the post with Klos a mere spectator and glad that no one could finish off the loose ball.

The wake-up call had an affect. The increased tempo illustrated that Rangers had a new sense of hunger, and the teenager Stephen Hughes came close with a shot before Caniggia undid his elusive run by dragging the ball too wide to find the empty net.

By this time, Andrei Kanchelskis ­ a peripheral figure at Ibrox despite his £5.5m fee and £30,000-a-week wages ­ had arrived as a substitute to try and unlock the door. The Russian international winger's trickery offered several glimpses of a chance but, from the best, Konterman shot wastefully wide to groans of derision from the Rangers crowd, who correctly sensed an embarrassing stalemate.

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