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Jim Jefferies <-auth Ken Gallacher auth-> Hugh Dallas
2 of 002 Neil Pointon 34 ;Allan Johnston 84 L Premier H

Defeat cuts Rangers' lead at top of the table Hearts give notice of cup intentions


11 Apr 1996

Hearts 2, Rangers 0

HEARTS gave the best answer of all to the pre-match critics who claimed that the Edinburgh side would lie down to Rangers because of the European implications which surrounded their match last night, and their forthcoming meeting in the Scottish Cup final.

They won the game by two goals, one in each half, and showed the confidence which they will need at Hampden on May 18.

This had always been one of the most dangerous confrontations left for Rangers

as they seek their eighth successive premier division cham-pionship.

Coming from a victory in the Old Firm cup semi-final, Rangers seemed unable to

lift their game - they lost and deserved to do so.

But as they crashed to defeat they found solace elsewhere.

Celtic, perhaps also

feeling the effects of the epic Hampden clash on Sunday, were unable to beat Kilmarnock at Parkhead.

And so this morning, Rangers find themselves a point worse off in the race for

the title - but possibly better off than they looked at the run-in.

They remain four points in front of the Parkhead side with just four games left

to play and as time runs out it is Celtic who look more likely to suffer.


night, they should have made up more ground.

A relieved Rangers manager Walter Smith admitted after the match: "Fortunately, we are in much the same position as we were before the game.


fact that Celtic only drew leaves us in a situation where we are still four points ahead with just four games left - and we do have a better goal difference.

"I thought the first goal was the turning point in the game and we were left to chase, and we did not create any real chances in the second half." This was Rangers showing their other side, the side which makes them, at times,

look ordinary.

At the weekend they were tactically better than Celtic, and only found themselves in danger towards the end of the game.

Last night, they were vulnerable all the way through.

Certainly, they might have scored before Hearts did.

They had chances to do so

and Ally McCoist, so often their key man on important occasions, somehow failed

to find his own personal magic last night.

Neil Pointon scored the opening goal for Hearts just 11 minutes before half-time when he picked up the ball around 25 yards from goal, invited a tackle, then sent a shot which soared beyond Andy Goram and into the net.

The second half began as the first half had, with Rangers probing for openings,

sometimes finding them, then wasting them.

Their best chance came after 67 minutes when Stuart McCall sent in a volley which Gilles Rousset stopped but could not hold.

The ball broke away from the Frenchman and Gordon Durie, who had replaced Alex Clelland five minutes earlier, followed up only to see Rousset smother the ball at his feet.

Hearts produced both their substitutes as Rangers tried to step up their attacking pressure, Neil Berry and Kevin Thomas took over from Gary McKay and John Robertson and then Rangers followed suit.

Eight minutes from the end as they searched for the equaliser, Gordan Petric and Trevor Steven left the field and John Brown and Ian Ferguson joined the action from the substitutes' bench.

However, instead of lifting Rangers, it was Hearts who scored again.

They broke

upfield seven minutes from time and Alan Johnston, who had punished the Ibrox

men with a hat trick in January, scored again.

He fastened on to a ball which had come out of defence, raced away from Richard

Gough, then cleverly delayed his shot as Goram advanced towards him.

Johnston's timing was perfect when he did strike to send the ball beyond the keeper and into the net and Rangers had to face defeat at the hands of the Tynecastle side once more.

If there was consolation - that Parkhead result apart - for Rangers fans, it came from Johnston, who said: "I think Rangers have come out of tonight's match better than Celtic have.

I don't see Rangers losing any more games between now and the end of the season." The result, eventually, did not dent the Ibrox title challenge too much - but it must have them worrying still over their hopes of completing the league and

cup double.

Hearts have now scored five times against them in two games and have set themselves up with a confidence-booster for the cup final.

Hearts manager Jim Jeffries said: "We did to Rangers what they did to Celtic on Sunday.

We showed that we have ambition in this club, ambition to be in Europe by our own efforts.

We want to be third in the league and we want to win

the cup.

I think Rangers know that now." Rangers had Richard Gough and Ally McCoist booked while Hearts' Steve Fulton was shown a yellow card late in the game for a foul on Paul Gascoigne.

HEARTS - Rousset, McManus, Ritchie, Mackay, McPherson, Bruno, Johnston, Cameron, Robertson, Fulton, Pointon.

Substitutes - Colquhoun, Thomas, Berry.

RANGERS - Goram, Cleland, Robertson, Gough, McLaren, Petric, Steven, Gascoigne,

McCoist, McCall, Laudrup.

Substitutes - Durie, Brown, Ferguson.

Referee - H Dallas (Motherwell).

Taken from the Herald

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