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<-Srce <-Type Observer ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Patrick Glenn auth-> Charlie Richmond
[T Buffel 9] ;[M Andrews 42]
18 of 019 Marvin Anthony Andrews og 84 L SPL A

Deflected glory turns to nervous finale as Andrews nets a double

Patrick Glenn at Ibrox
Sunday May 8, 2005
The Observer

Rangers' players finished up looking as nervous as their supporters on a day when they had appeared likely to take care of Hearts with nonchalant authority. At this late stage of a close-run championship nobody expects classic football, but, until Marvin Andrews' own goal near the end, the Ibrox side were as imposing as they needed to be to regain the league leadership by a point from Celtic, who play Aberdeen this afternoon.

With Thomas Buffel establishing an advantage after only nine minutes and Andrews following up before the interval, the victory should have been almost a routine exercise. But, given the circumstances, there was a curious blandness for much of the time that suggested an end-of-season filler rather than an event that could effect the outcome of the league title. This was mainly down to Hearts, who, in fairness, had an excuse of sorts.

Their recent setbacks on the field had taken them out of contention for a place in next season's Uefa Cup and stripped them of any incentive, other than the usual desire to give a member of the Old Firm an unpleasant shock.

In addition, the speculation over the future of their manager, John Robertson - he is said to be simply working his notice until the end of the month - would do little for the players' peace of mind. For lengthy periods, this uncertainty manifested itself in loose passing and easy loss of possession, as though they were preoccupied.

Rangers, of course, have the biggest prize of all as an objective, but, despite the earliness with which Buffel gave them the lead, it was not until Andrews rather accidentally doubled their advantage that there was a stirring of authentic passion.

That opening goal was the result of a combination of incisive forward play and weak defending. Nacho Novo's burrowing run into the left side of the penalty area took him past two defenders and, as Craig Gordon came to meet him, the little Spaniard chipped the ball towards the far corner.

Lacking pace, it was never likely to pass Andy Webster, standing guard on the line. But the defender's attempted clearance was feeble, merely patting the ball straight to Buffel, who had only to head it into the unprotected net from six yards.

The second began with Grégory Vignal's corner from the right, the ball headed twice before it came out to Buffel, some 20 yards from goal. His low, powerful drive appeared to be going wide, but it was deflected by the waiting Andrews - whether deliberately or not was difficult to tell - high past Gordon from close range.

Robertson's deployment of a solitary striker, Lee Miller, and five across the middle amounted to a declaration of little threat from Hearts and Miller may even have been grateful for the knock he received early in the match, which eventually caused his removal during the interval, to be replaced by Dennis Wyness.

But it was not until after Rangers had come within a few centimetres of the third goal after 65 minutes that Robertson switched to a two-pronged attack, sending on Mark Burchill for Joe Hamill.

It was Buffel who, just a few second before, had met a cut-back from Shota Arveladze - he had replaced the ineffective Peter Lovenkrands - and sent a powerful drive off the underside of the bar, the ball rebounding out to safety.

Rangers spent most of the time thereafter operating what might be called an energy conservation programme, creating precisely the kind of lethargy-inducing climate in which mistakes can lead to damage. But for the dilatoriness of Paul Hartley, Hearts would have scored even before they did. The Hearts midfielder, only eight yards from goal and ball at his feet, hesitated long enough to allow Vignal to come across and whip the ball from his toe.

The goal that would lead to an improbably nerve-testing finish came from a free-kick by Michael Stewart. From the right, the former Manchester United midfielder curled the ball into the heart of the defence and, in sliding to intercept, Andrews deflected the ball low to the right of Ronald Waterreus.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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