Smith starts to fret over rusty Rangers

Rangers 0 Aberdeen 0

The glory, if there was any to be found here, was in the way Aberdeen set about restoring their self-esteem. This old ground has for so long represented a place only of bitterness and regret that they might have been overcome by angst, but they fought for something here, their own sense of worth, and this intent was at least recognised by the outcome.

For Rangers, it is now three consecutive 0-0 draws in the Premier League and doubt is beginning to gather around the ability of this team to deliver the best of itself under close scrutiny.

They saw much of the ball yesterday, but even in the urgency of the closing moments, when Kris Boyd nudged a header wide and Nacho Novo struck the post, they lacked the authority of a side that trusts itself to be decisive.

"We haven't quite reached the level of last season," said the champions' manager, Walter Smith. "Things need to click into place soon."

The visitors set out to at least hold firm, to reveal a heart of resolve that might in some way reduce the gravity of their task. It was almost 18 years to the day since they last won at Ibrox, and more accomplished sides than the one Mark McGhee was able to field have contributed to that stark history.

Their line-up here included a 16-year-old, Fraser Fyvie, in the centre of midfield, but he performed with such discipline, application and assurance that he reduced his age to nothing more relevant than a bare statistic. "It was an organised, hard-working performance," said McGhee. "The players stood up to be counted."

Rangers were intermittently effective and Jerome Rothen, during the first half in particular, carried a threat that was often convincing. Twice from free-kicks and once with a shot on the run, the Frenchman drew adroit saves from Aberdeen's goalkeeper Jamie Langfield.

Novo, with a stabbed shot that Andrew Considine headed away, might have turned the game in Rangers' favour early in the second half but instead they go into Tuesday's Champions' League match against Seville carrying a growing weight of uncertainty.

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