Rangers issued with final warning

Football: Heart of Midlothian 2 Rangers 0
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The Independent Online


Heart of Midlothian 2 Rangers 0

A night when both sides of the Old Firm failed to secure a win ensured that the closest title race for years will continue for another couple of weeks, although Celtic might feel they passed up a real chance to set Rangers nerves jangling by only drawing 1-1 at home to Kilmarnock.

Hearts, who gained a psychological advantage over Rangers before their Tennents Scottish Cup final meeting on 18 May, gave Celtic the opportunity to move to within touching distance of the champions, and if the challengers fail to overhaul Rangers' four-point lead over the last four games they might look back on this night with regret.

Hearts will care little for the league dogfight. They sent a pointed message to Rangers that they will be formidable opponents at Hampden: the Edinburgh club were the last team to beat Rangers in the League, with a 3-0 victory at Ibrox in January, and again they demonstrated the killer instinct, allied with firm defending, to keep the men from Ibrox at bay.

Goals from Neil Pointon and Allan Johnston in each half secured the points for the home side, whose terrier-like approach Rangers failed to match. However, even if he failed to approach his own high standards, Paul Gascoigne's probing from midfield kept the Hearts defence on a constant state of alert.

Pointon opened the scoring in the 34th minute, eluding his marker before sending a glorious left-foot shot high into the top left-hand corner of Andy Goram's goal.

Rangers tried to respond but found great difficulty in breaking down the Hearts rearguard on a night when the home side were inspired. A second goal with seven minutes remaining from Johnston ensured the points were won.

Collecting a long through ball, he outpaced Richard Gough, who had returned to the Rangers defence after an absence of four weeks, rounded Goram, and shot powerfully 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).