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1 of 002 John Robertson 9 ;John Millar 30 L Premier H

Hearts again take advantage of champions' form slump Maxwell jitters upset Rangers' master plan


20 Mar 1995

Hearts 2, Rangers 1

RANGERS are into one of their end-of-the-season nail-biting acts once again.

It's only a couple of weeks since skipper Richard Gough insisted that the players wanted to clinch their seventh successive title in style ... but the script is not working out that way.

Hearts, who knocked the Ibrox men out of the Scottish Cup last month, followed up with a victory in the league on Saturday.

Now Rangers are just 12 points clear of Motherwell -- and even that lead could be whittled down a little more in midweek when the Fir Park men go to Easter Road to face Hibs.

It does not take a genius to work out some of what has gone wrong with the champions.

You look at the injury list -- there was Trevor Steven taking that familiar limp to the touchline once more at Tynecasle -- and you recognise where manager Walter Smith's problems lie.

There is, however, a rather more worrying aspect to the dangerous form slump than the bare statistics of a lengthy and damaging injury list.

Every top manager I have known over the years has insisted on having the spine of the team right.

From Stein and Shankly and Revie, through Jim McLean and Alex Ferguson.

When Graeme Souness and Walter Smith arrived at Ibrox their first transfer moves re-affirmed that belief.

Rangers are now playing without that vital component.

The importance of Andy Goram, Smith's first signing as manager, has never been more apparent.

His deputy, Ally Maxwell, is suffering a kamikaze run which has seen him gifting goals to the opposition in match after match.

His form has been so bad that at Tynecastle -- where he blundered again to compound his mistakes in the cup clash -- he was booed by his own supporters.

The uncertainty has spread from Maxwell to the men in front of him.

The defence, so sure of Goram's ability, are now riven by doubts.

It is quite clear they have no faith in their stand-in keeper.

Up front, Gordon Durie, never an orthodox out-and-out striker, is on his own because of the injuries and suspensions which have limited Smith's choice throughout the season.

Those who say Smith should simply go out and buy another keeper are taking a simplistic view of the Ibrox scenario, which still says Goram will be back fully fit by the start of the new season.

Who is going to go to Ibrox to be second pick to the best keeper in Britain?

The only way out of the impasse is for Smith to try to persuade a class keeper to come with the promise that he will be allowed to move on if Goram reclaims his place.

These, though, are Rangers' problems.

The worries facing Hearts manager Tommy McLean are considerably fewer.

His team is in the Scotish Cup semi-final and, while caution dictates that McLean will still be concerned over the thought of relegation, the reality is that they sit now just one point behind Celtic.

After the game, McLean admitted: "I am absolutely delighted with this win and the way it was achieved.

"There is still work to be done, but we are making real progress.

We have brought in new players and they are settling, but we still recognise that if we are to mount a real challenge we will have to add quality players to the staff.

"But today I was very happy with the way John Robertson played before he was injured.

He made a tremendous contribution, particularly in the first half."

The little striker scored the first goal and John Millar added the second before Brian Laudrup's spectacular strike hauled one back for Rangers just before half-time.

It was Laudrup's goal which brought praise from the Hearts players afterwards.

Robertson, his knee heavily bandaged, was fulsome in his praise for the Danish internationalist.

The Hearts striker said: "Laudrup is the finest player I have ever seen in Scottish football.

He is a genius and is just on a different planet from the rest of us."

On his injury Robertson added: "I don't blame Alex Cleland for the injury at all.

It was just one of those tackles and it was not his fault.

At the moment the knee is heavily bruised, but I don't think there is any ligament damage I should be playing in the semi-final against Airdrie OK."

Robertson could also find himself playing in the Hampden final.

This Hearts' team has a resilience and a degree of skill from players such as Stephen Frail and Jim Bett which suggests that McLean could find himself back at Hampden this season.

Taken from the Herald

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