Johnston underlines psychological advantage for Hearts

Football Heart of Midlothian 2 Rangers 0
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Football

DAVID McKINNEY

Heart of Midlothian 2 Rangers 0

It was wholly appropriate that this game was played like a cup tie as the next meeting of the two will be in the Tennents Scottish Cup final on 18 May. Goals in either half by Neil Pointon and Allan Johnston secured the victory, yet there was enough slackness from both sides to ensure the excitement would continue to the end.

Although Hearts claimed the points, Rangers lost nothing more than the psychological advantage ahead of the Cup final given the inability of Celtic to beat Kilmarnock. Rangers, although disappointed, will realise that they have in fact taken a step closer to the title because Celtic have one game less in which to claw back their four-point deficit.

Hearts were determined not to lose the psychological battle and fought and scrapped for every loose ball. As early as the 20th minute Paul Ritchie made a saving tackle for Hearts, sliding in to deny Ally McCoist who seemed poised to supply the finish after an interchange between Trevor Steven and Brian Laudrup had seen the Dane aim a low cross into the goalmouth.

After Paul Gascoigne had aimed a shot high and wide, the home side, who had started in confident mood, opened the scoring with a delightful goal in the 34th minute. Pointon eluded his marker before aiming a glorious left-foot shot over the grasp of Andy Goram into the top corner of his net.

The Rangers response four minutes after the interval saw Gascoigne aim a free-kick towards Alan McLaren, but the defender mistimed his header and the ball sailed harmlessly by. Johnston had a chance at the other end but dragged his shot wide, while McCoist uncharacteristically did likewise in front of the Hearts goal.

Hearts stood firm for most of the second half and, with seven minutes remaining, Johnston outstripped the Rangers defence and went around Goram before slamming the ball into the net.

Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2): Rousset; McPherson, McManus, Bruno, Ritchie; Mackay (Berry, 74), Cameron, Fulton, Pointon (Colquhoun, 85); Johnston, Robertson (Thomas, 75).

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram: Petric (Brown, 82), Gough, McLaren; Cleland (Durie, 62), Steven (Ferguson, 82), Gascoigne, McCall, Robertson; McCoist, Laudrup.

Referee: H Dallas (Motherwell).

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