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Craig Levein <-auth None auth-> Douglas McDonald
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Rangers 2 Hearts 0

By Jon West, PA Sport

Billy Dodds found the net in a league game for the first time this season to set up a comfortable win for Rangers over lacklustre Hearts.

And the veteran, whose career has been resurrected by Alex McLeish's replacement of Dick Advocaat in the Rangers dug-out, netted another to wrap up the three points after the break.

At times it had seemed as though Advocaat would have rather played with 10 men than give Dodds a game, but with the new manager's equality policy having revived the team's fortunes as well, the 33-year-old showed he had not lost his scoring instinct by being forced to go through the motions in the reserves.

Neither side had much to play for however and it showed, although Hearts could have argued beforehand that a UEFA Cup place was a possibility if they did well and Livingston continued to stumble.

Rangers, with one eye on next month's Scottish Cup final clash with Celtic, left out Barry Ferguson, Bert Konterman, Tore Andre Flo and Arthur Numan on fitness grounds and were without Fernando Ricksen through suspension.

That allowed the likes of Bob Malcolm, Maurice Ross and Andrei Kanchelskis to continue to stake their claims for cup final places, and Ronald de Boer was back from injury for the first time since February.

Hearts, who were without Steven Pressley and Andy Kirk through injury, defended in numbers but were forced into two more changes before the break.

Tommi Gronlund came off worst in a midfield collision with Christian Nerlinger and had to be replaced by Stevie Fulton in the 10th minute and just after the half-hour mark Kenny Milne was also forced off, suffering a head injury in a clash with Malcolm and collapsing on his way off the field.

Stretcher-bearers had to complete the journey for him and that allowed Robert Tomaschek to make his long-awaited comeback after eight months recovering from a serious knee injury.

Rangers dominated the first half but many of their chances were snuffed out either by an overcrowding of defenders or the offside flag.

Some of the linesman's decisions had looked questionable to say the least, with the pacy Peter Lovenkrands the victim on more than one occasion.

But the one time the flag stayed down, Rangers could not profit.

Lorenzo Amoruso put the winger in behind the defence but Antti Niemi, the former Rangers goalkeeper, made an excellent parry.

That was just before the half-hour mark but the Finn was given no chance in the 39th minute when Dodds finally made the breakthrough.

Kanchelskis crossed to the near post from the right and Lovenkrands was able to help the ball onwards under pressure with a back header.

No-one had tracked Dodds and the practised predator slid in to divert the ball past the exposed goalkeeper.

Hearts' forays into the Rangers box had been few and far between and Ricardo Fuller had a quiet afternoon in the sun.

But two half-chances did come his way in the space of a few seconds, with the first being a shot that was blocked and a follow-up header than went wide when Fulton, Gronlund's replacement, retrieved from the right.

Hearts were a little more adventurous after the break, with Scott Severin testing Stefan Klos from long range and Thomas Flogel creating, and then wasting, a shooting opportunity for himself.

But Lovenkrands was also keen to impress, with a World Cup place in the Denmark squad up for grabs.

He twice launched himself into the air in search of a goal, first with a header from Neil McCann's cross from the left and then with a flying bicycle kick from Tony Vidmar's supply from the same flank.

But Hearts were not out of it and young striker Gary Wales was denied one-on-one with Klos in the box, with the German making a block when his opponent looked odds-on to score.

It was to prove a crucial miss as Dodds then made it 2-0 with a well-taken header.

Vidmar sent McCann away down the left and his cross found the striker with enough time and space in the box to decide exactly where to plant the ball past Niemi, who had been left exposed once more.

Rangers gave the final half hour to little midfielder Jimmy Gibson, who had replaced de Boer, and Michael Mols played the final 20 minutes after coming on for Lovenkrands.

Dodds fancied a hat-trick after Kanchelskis had done well on the right and Mols had laid the ball back invitingly.

But Alan Maybury, who had been booked in the first half for a foul on McCann, timed his intervention perfectly and Rangers had to settle for a corner.

Stoppage time saw Gibson hobble off to be replaced by Russell Latapy for literally a few seconds.


Rangers: Klos, Ross, Malcolm, Amoruso, Vidmar, Kanchelskis, de Boer (James Gibson 58), Nerlinger, McCann, Dodds, Lovenkrands (Mols 72), James Gibson (Latapy 90).

Subs Not Used: McGregor, Caniggia.

Goals: Dodds 38, 71.

Hearts: Niemi, Maybury, McKenna, Severin, Mahe, Flogel, Gronlund (Fulton 10), Milne (Tomaschek 32), Tod, Fuller, Wales (Weir 73).

Subs Not Used: McKenzie, Webster.

Booked: Maybury, Severin.

Att: 47,492

Ref: D McDonald (Scotland).

Taken from

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