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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Stephen Halliday auth-> Calum Murray
[S Naismith 58]
12 of 019 David Obua 16L SPL A

Stuttering start is nothing new to Ally McCoist

Published Date: 25 July 2011
By Stephen Halliday
at Ibrox
ALLY McCoist may have experienced an unwelcome sense of deja vu as he shifted uncomfortably in his directors' box seat on Saturday. The start of his managerial career at Rangers followed a similarly frustrating pattern as his playing debut some 28 years earlier.
Back in 1983, the then blond-dyed locks of McCoist were plastered in the sweat of toiling to a 1-1 draw against St Mirren at Ibrox, an occasion that saw Rangers have to recover from the loss of Frank McAvennie's first-half goal to salvage a point courtesy of a Robert Prytz penalty.

Fast forward almost three decades and McCoist's hair may have greyed just a little more as a new Rangers era under his command kicked off with his team forced to dig deep to achieve the same scoreline against an impressive Hearts side who will reflect on a missed opportunity to take all three points.

The inauspicious beginning to McCoist's playing career, of course, was an unreliable portent of what was to follow as he went on to enjoy one of the most successful playing careers in the club's history.

He is likely to require all of the resilience and unshakeable self-belief he displayed during the difficult periods he endured on the pitch as he seeks to forge a new path as a winning manager at the club.

As disappointing as the result was for McCoist on Saturday, Rangers failing to match the razzmatazz of the pre-match celebrations as last season's championship flag was unfurled by new chairman Craig Whyte, the 90 minutes would have told him nothing he did not already know about his squad.

The need for a fresh injection of personnel, to both supplement and invigorate those who have secured the previous three SPL titles, is acute and will continue to be addressed by McCoist in the remaining five weeks of the transfer window.

Rangers were laboured and unimaginative in a first-half in which Hearts were by far the most threatening side. Jim Jefferies' men performed with a potent combination of organisation and flair, auguring well for their prospects of building on last season's third-place finish with perhaps a more sustained challenge to the Old Firm.

The eighth-minute loss of the hapless Andy Webster to yet another injury proved no handicap for the Gorgie men. On the contrary, the redeployment of Eggert Jonsson into central defence as substitute Adrian Mrowiec slotted into the holding midfield role increased Hearts' effectiveness as a unit.

With winger David Templeton recapturing the thrilling form that earned him so many rave reviews in the first half of last season, Hearts were able to cause significant problems for a Rangers defence in which the steadying influence of suspended captain David Weir was conspicuous by its absence.

Had Weir been present, it is certainly difficult to imagine David Obua would have been afforded the time and space he had to meet Danny Grainger's right-wing corner with a towering header that left Allan McGregor helpless.

The Rangers goalkeeper, by some distance his team's most influential performer on the day, would go on to make a major contribution in preventing McCoist from becoming only the second manager in Rangers' history, after John Greig back in 1978, to lose his first game in charge.

McGregor saved bravely to deny Templeton just nine minutes after Hearts' opener and later in the second half prevented Obua from netting a spectacular double when he leapt brilliantly to turn the Ugandan's fierce volley over the top.

By that stage, Rangers had drawn level and deservedly so. By moving Steven Davis, captain for the day, into a more central role at the start of the second-half, McCoist injected much needed creativity into an area of the pitch where Lee McCulloch and Maurice Edu had struggled to supplement their graft with guile.

The loss of Templeton with a head knock was a setback for Hearts just six minutes after the restart but Rangers had already started to build up a head of steam that promised an equaliser. Steven Naismith, having blazed an easier chance over earlier, finally provided it in the 57th minute when he glanced a free header from Sasa Papac's cross beyond Marian Kello.

The goal placed the sole black mark of the afternoon against Ryan McGowan. The 21-year-old Australian, otherwise outstanding at right-back for Hearts, ran needlessly into trouble to concede possession to Papac in the build-up to the goal.

McGowan was responsible for ensuring a difficult Rangers debut for Juan Manuel Ortiz, the Spanish winger unable to make any telling contribution as he was policed diligently by the young man from Adelaide.

Ortiz was replaced with a quarter of an hour remaining, just after a woeful first touch had seen him lose the opportunity to mark his debut with a winning goal when he was picked out by Steven Whittaker's fine pass.

Gregg Wylde displayed greater pace and directness on the left in his cameo appearance as Ortiz' replacement, the 20-year-old Scot hoping he has done enough to earn a starting berth for tomorrow night's Champions League third qualifying round first-leg date with Malmo at Ibrox.

The jeers from the home support at full-time on Saturday simply underscored the level of expectation McCoist must meet if he is to prosper in his new role. Failure to overcome the Swedish champions in his maiden European assignment as manager would see him come under heightened scrutiny even this early in his tenure.

The result against Hearts, however, may be viewed in a different light by those of a Rangers persuasion a few months down the line. Jefferies' men, who will travel to Hungary for the first leg of their Europa League qualifier against Paksi on Thursday night, could prove to be a genuine threat in the title race if this performance was a reliable guide.

Taken from the Scotsman

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