At the end of a game that unravelled into a kind of strangely calm disorder, with two players dismissed, nine others booked and the Rangers manager sent to the stand, where he briefly argued with a supporter, the most intense feeling surely would have been one of regret. It is an emotion that will have been easily summoned by the Kilmarnock players as they sloped back to the dressing room, and it would have carried the sting of a rebuke.
For much of the second half, the hosts played with an extra man, following the dismissal of Pedro Mendes just before the interval, and three times an opportunity presented itself with such clarity that a goal seemed inevitable, only to be squandered.
Danny Invincibile lashed over from 10 yards, Jamie Hamill's volley struck the post, then Conor Sammon's shot, after a spin in the penalty area, was saved by Allan McGregor. "I've not beaten Rangers here and this was a great chance," sighed the Kilmarnock manager, Jim Jefferies.
The match itself was sombre, with the only flash of wilfulness coming from Walter Smith, when Mendes was shown a second yellow card for a second untidy, but earnest, challenge on Craig Bryson as the Kilmarnock players rushed to the referee.
Smith remonstrated on the pitch, before referee Steve Conroy sent him to the stand, where he became embroiled in a heated exchange with a fan, prompting the Kilmarnock chairman to intervene.
"I thought the Kilmarnock players were trying to get Mendes sent off, but Jim [Jefferies] has assured me that wasn't the case, so I got it wrong," Smith said. "In the stand, the boy congratulated me for being sent off."
The wit was dry, but then Smith is normally an implacable figure. This is the third time in five League games this season that Rangers have been reduced to 10 men and although nothing malicious stained this encounter, he will seek to constrain his players in future.
As if trying to be even-handed, Conroy later showed a second yellow to Manuel Pascali, for another innocuous tussle with Steven Davis.Reuse content