The sight of Andy Goram, the Rangers goalkeeper, embroiled in a fight with a supporter midway through the second half suggested that a degree of anger and frustration rarely demonstrated by Hibernian supporters had reached the surface and boiled over. Yet their side are not even involved in the two-way battle at the top of the Premier Division.
The Hibs players nevertheless attacked the game like a cup final. They lost to an own-goal and a penalty but felt justified in a first-half penalty claim, when David Robertson appeared to handle a cross by Keith Wright. As tempers rose in the second period, a skirmish in the crowd at one end distracted attention from a run by a spectator towards Goram in the other goalmouth. The two fell together and afterwards the Rangers goalkeeper was treated for what appeared to be a facial injury.
Ultimately, it was Hibernian who were left with sore heads as Rangers regained their three-point lead at the top of the Premier Division, an advantage they will carry into the vital Old Firm game at Ibrox in two weeks' time. They will be without their captain, Richard Gough, for that game, and for the next four to six weeks, after a torn calf muscle forced his premature retirement on the stroke of half-time. The defender was making his return from a four-week absence through injury. Walter Smith the Rangers manager, said: "We handled the situation without him for the last month or so, although not by choice, and I feel we have experienced players to cover for his absence."
If the Rangers forwards have taken the club to their present position, it has been the turn of the defence over the last two games to keep a tight ship. As they had done at Pittodrie last week, Rangers kept a blank sheet to give them two victories from potentially difficult away matches, a point not lost on their manager. "We are happy to come out of two difficult away games with full points and happy with the result which sets us up for the game against Celtic in a couple of weeks."
Rangers took the lead with a little bit of help in the 31st minute, when Brian Laudrup embarked on a trademark run which on this occasion took four defenders out of the game before sending over a cross which was headed powerfully and spectacularly past his own goalkeeper by Graham Mitchell.
Hibernian's penalty claims on the stroke of half-time were denied although Robertson had appeared to handle the ball from Wright but, when Paul Gascoigne went down while attempting a one-two with Laudrup inside the Hibs penalty area, Rangers were themselves awarded a spot-kick from which Laudrup sealed the points.
An angry exchange of words between Gascoigne and Jim Leighton, the veteran Hibernian and Scotland goalkeeper, resulted in both being shown a yellow card. For the Englishman, it was his 14th caution of a troubled season.
Goals: Mitchell (og 31) 0-1; Laudrup (pen 70) 0-2.
Hibernian (4-4-2): Leighton; Miller, McLaughlin, Tweed, Mitchell; McGinlay, D Jackson, Farrell, O'Neill; Weir (Evans, 77), Wright. Substitutes not used: Millen, Love.
Rangers (3-4-3): Goram; Petric, Gough (Brown, 44), McLaren; Moore, McCall, Gascoigne, D Robertson; Laudrup, Andersen (McCoist, 85), Van Vossen (Miller, 65).
Referee: W S G Young (Clarkston).
Bookings: Hibernian: Leighton. Rangers: Petric, Gascoigne.
Man of the match: Laudrup. Attendance: 11,954.Reuse content