For the third time in six seasons, an SPL title race between Rangers and Celtic will go to the wire. A trio of goals last night at Love Street from Kris Boyd, with the opener, and Jean-Claude Darcheville, twice, was not sufficient for Rangers to wipe out their goal-difference deficit on Celtic. But it was enough to take the SPL title race to a showdown evening on Thursday.
Rangers will play at Aberdeen starting with 86 points, the same as Celtic when they face Dundee United at Tannadice at the same time. Though Celtic have a better goal difference by a margin of four, Rangers' manager, Walter Smith, insisted last night that there is everything still to play for. "Who knows what will happen," he said. "We'll just try to win our game." Of his team's display, which earned Rangers a first away win in the league since a 4-0 victory at Hearts on 27 February, he said: "We could have had more goals but we've got to be satisfied we won, and by playing well."
Needing goals, Smith even abandoned his cautious 4-5-1 to start with two up front, and even allowed Kris Boyd, the enigma who does little but score, to play from the off. That paid early dividends. Steven Davis switched play with from left to right, finding Kirk Broadfoot on the right of the six-yard box. He centred and Boyd hooked it in for his 23rd Rangers goal of the season in all competitions.
Rangers' second came through a Saints error, Stephen O'Donnell losing the ball to Darcheville when failing to control a pass. Darcheville took a moment to line up his shot from edge of the area then smacked it home low.
A bit of argy-bargy and four bookings in a minute disrupted proceedings after Rangers' Kevin Thomson kicked the ball at a downed St Mirren player, sparking a melee. The visitors only regained their stride just before the interval, Darcheville thumping an overhead shot against the post and another effort just wide.
For all that Rangers needed goals, the fact they relied on the long ball so much was frustrating to fans who knew they were more dangerous when they kept it down. In the 52nd minutes Barry Ferguson, Broadfoot and Boyd were involved in a build-up to Nacho Novo's curled effort to the top corner. It was blocked, but it showed that passing and movement worked.
Rangers went 3-0 up in a move started when Boyd angled the ball from his chest to Ferguson. He hit a superb pass into the path of Darcheville, who tucked in. Darcheville said afterwards that "anything could happen" on Thursday, and that he believed in miracles.
St Mirren (4-5-1): Howard; Barron, Haining, Potter, Miranda; Murray, Dorman, Mason, O'Donnell, McGinn (Hamilton, 56); Mehmet. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Dargo, McCay, Docherty, McAusland, Burns.
Rangers (4-4-2): Alexander; Broadfoot, Dailly, Weir, Whittaker; Novo (Beasley, 77), Ferguson, Thomson, Davis; Darcheville (Cousin, 81), Boyd. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Faye, Furman, McMillan, Fleck.
Referee: C Thomson.
* The funeral service of Celtic legend Tommy Burns will take place at noon today at St Mary's Church, Abercromby Street, Glasgow.Reuse content