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Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Ewing Grahame auth-> Calum Murray
[S Naismith 58]
17 of 019 David Obua 16L SPL A

Rangers go from cheers to jeers against Hearts as crucial Champions League qualifier with Malmo awaits

On Saturday at 12.15 Rangers unfurled their third successive championship flag. Two hours later, having been held to a 1-1 draw by Hearts, the title holders were jeered off the pitch by their supporters.

By Ewing Grahame

10:30PM BST 24 Jul 2011

"That's just Glasgow," said Rangers winger Gregg Wylde afterwards, referring to the intensity of the scrutiny which is applied to the Old Firm as they jostle for position in the annual two-horse race for supremacy.

Wylde was one of the few successes for new manager Ally McCoist in his competitive debut. Unfortunately for the 20 year-old, he was given only the final 14 minutes to shine.

He replaced the ineffective Juan Manuel Ortiz, although the right-footed Spaniard could argue, with some justification, that he had been fielded out of position on the left flank.

On Tuesday night, in the crucial Champions League qualifier against Malmo at Ibrox, that role could be filled by Lee Wallace, last week's £1.5 million signing from Hearts who remained on the bench throughout Saturday's encounter.

Wylde, though, lacks nothing in confidence and believes that he is entitled to start ahead of both players against the Swedes.

"I thought I did all right when I came off the bench and, hopefully, I'll start on Tuesday," he said.

"The manager's brought in a player for that position so I'll need to fight for my place. Ortiz spoke to me at half-time but I couldn't understand a word he was saying.

"He does try to give me advice, though, and I've watched him in the past playing against Real Madrid and teams like that. He is a good player but, ideally, he'll play on the right and I'll play on the left in future.

"To be honest, though, I don't look up to any other player: I concentrate on my own ability and I know what I can do. If I didn't think I was a first-team player then I shouldn't be here."

Wylde's cameo certainly provided McCoist with food for thought on the eve of a tie which could have huge financial implications for the club.

Ortiz not only lacked the pace to trouble his direct opponent, Ryan McGowan, but he provided only one decent delivery from the flank. McGowan admitted afterwards that he would have preferred the former Almeria player to have remained on the field.

"Gregg is a bit of a flying machine and he was the last player I wanted to come on," said the Australian.

"He has pace to burn but, fortunately, Rangers didn't get the ball to him as often as they did to Ortiz."

There will be other factors McCoist must ponder, in particular the make-up of his engine room. Against Hearts Maurice Edu and Lee McCulloch were deployed in the centre of midfield but lack the creativity to unlock well-drilled defences.

Steven Davis possesses the necessary guile but the Irishman, who captained the side in the absence of the suspended David Weir, was wasted at the weekend, often isolated wide on the right

At 41, Weir should not be considered indispensable but his absence was certainly felt on this occasion. Hearts opened the scoring when David Obua was granted the freedom of the penalty area to head home Danny Grainger's corner kick.

Rangers lacked composure and cohesion during the opening half and Hearts, who have now gone 17 matches without a win at Ibrox, should have been further ahead by the break.

Allan McGregor saved well from the impressive David Templeton and Obua, with only the Scotland goalkeeper to beat, found the side-netting from 15 yards.

The home side responded to McCoist's half-time pep talk ("I told them to remember what had brought them success in the last few years") and launched wave after wave of attacks on Marian Kello's goal.

Steven Naismith spurned two excellent chances before finally restoring parity in the 57th minute with a header from Sasa Papac's cross.

That goal ought to have galvanised Rangers but, instead, it appeared to tranquillise them and Kello had little else to do in the final third of the match.

For their part, Hearts were hampered by the loss of Templeton following a head knock before Rangers' equaliser. Even so, McGregor produced the best save of the afternoon, twisting in mid air to push over a dipping shot from Obua.

"That's why we signed him on a long-term contract," said McCoist. "His saves are wonderful but that's not all he brings to the team: he's always geeing people up."

Romanian central defender Dorin Goian may arrive from Palermo in the next 24 hours to bolster his defence but, having lost out to Cardiff City for Kenny Miller, McCoist must also work out how to get the best out of striker Nikica Jelavic, who failed to register an effort on target against Hearts.

The manager may yet decide that the Croatian may be best served by playing his Wylde card.

"Malmo is a high-pressure game," said the youngster. "If we play against them in the same way that we started the second half we should be all right."

On the other hand…

Taken from

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