St Mirren 2 Rangers 3: Novo goes from zero to hero to help sink Saints

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The Independent Football

For the second time in four days, Nacho Novo was the hero as Rangers edged a five-goal thriller away from home. But unlike last Thursday, when the Spanish striker started and scored in the 3-2 Uefa Cup win at Livorno, the manner of victory at Love Street was far more complicated, and at times controversial. Novo began on the bench and saw only 12 minutes of action, scoring the bundled winner five minutes from time that keeps Rangers 10 points behind Celtic.

His manager, Paul Le Guen, defended his line-up decision, saying: "It's difficult for strikers to play two games in only a few days. I had a chat with Nacho before the game and said he could make a good contribution if he came off the bench. He understood." Whether Novo likes it, which is an entirely different matter, is something that will become apparent if he remains on the bench and Rangers keep wobbling in and out of form.

The visitors, sluggish from the blocks, fell behind inside five minutes when Simon Lappin's whipped cross was headed in by John Sutton. It took Rangers 13 minutes to level, through Charlie Adam's well-struck left-footed free-kick from the edge of the box. Eight minutes later, Rangers were back in front, Thomas Buffel's low drive buried in the corner from the edge of the area. Much of the remainder of the game lacked urgency, although neither side were helped by a picky refereeing display.

Calum Murray whistled for everything of no consequence and for nothing of any. It was Rangers' misfortune that one "incident" he blew for was a challenge by Julien Rodriguez on Mark Corcoran. Only he saw it, even TV replays made no sense of the subsequent penalty which Sutton smashed home for 2-2.

Rangers could have gone further ahead earlier but saw missed chances by Buffel (twice), Adam (several times) and Stevie Smith before Novo pounced.

Goals: Sutton (5) 1-0; Adam (18) 1-1; Buffel (26) 1-2; Sutton, pen (78) 2-2; Novo (85) 2-3.

St Mirren (4-4-2): Bullock; van Zanten, McGowne (Corcoran, 70), Millen, Broadfoot; Brittain, Murray (Kean, 86), Brady, Lappin; Mehmet (McKenna, 70), Sutton. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Reid, Molloy, McCay.

Rangers (4-2-3-1): Letizi; Hutton, Rodriguez, Papac, Smith; Ferguson, Hemdani; Buffel, Prso (Novo, 78), Adam; Boyd (Sebo, 88). Substitutes not used: McGregor (gk), Rae, Svensson, Ponroy, N'Diaye.

Referee: C Murray (Scotland).

Booked: Rangers: Rodriguez.

Attendance: 8,383.

Man of the match: Adam.