London Hearts Supporters Club

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Paulo Sergio <-auth ALAN PATTULLO auth-> Calum Murray
[S Aluko 29] ;[A Little 35] ;[A Little 88]
14 of 016 -----L SPL H

Welcome respite as Rangers focus on football

Published on Monday 23 April 2012 01:09

ACCORDING to the Rangers coaching staff, this was just what the doctor ordered. The Ibrox club's core activity remains playing football.

Despite everything else, they collected a fourth successive win on Saturday at the home of the Scottish Cup finalists, when many would have fancied a Hearts win.

Their record since administration is now six wins in nine matches. It isn't as bad a run as looked likely when three defeats were suffered in Rangers' first four outings after the bleak news from the Court of Session on 14 February. "Given everything else that is going on that is a fantastic result, it really is," said McCoist. "One of the big pluses and, in a bizarre way, good things to come out of this is that there is a real unity within the club in terms of the players, the staff and, indeed, the support. Make no mistake, we need a boost."

They got it on Saturday. However, the players, staff and supporters will be braced for more anxiety today, as yet another D Day dawns. Yet there was some sweet relief at Tynecastle, where Rangers swept into a two-goal lead. Both goals were scored beneath the noses of a large travelling support. Remarkably, this was the first time since May 2010 that an away Rangers league game had kicked off at 3pm. "It will never catch on," noted the Tynecastle DJ Scott Wilson sarcastically.

To be fair, given some of the frenetic clashes between these two sides of late, it was not a great advertisement for a return to the traditional slot. Perhaps understandably, Hearts looked to have other matters in mind. They only started to play in the second-half, after manager Paulo Sergio had again tinkered with his line-up during the interval. Suso Santana replaced Stephen Elliott at half-time. Although the improvement was not as immediate as against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final, when Craig Beattie came on for Scott Robinson, Hearts did recover to the point where they were handed the chance to make Rangers sweat a bit.

Unfortunately for them, Beattie could not do what he did against Celtic six days earlier. Sone Aluko up-ended substitute David Templeton in the box, and Calum Murray pointed immediately to the spot. From the moment the ball left Beattie's boot, however, it looked set on a wayward trajectory. It was a surprise when it bashed off the crossbar since it hadn't looked to be going that close. It was Hearts' fifth consecutive penalty miss in league games, and they will pray that they can secure the Scottish Cup before a shoot-out is required at Hampden next month. Sergio simply shrugged afterwards, and revealed he would be happy if Beattie took the next award. "He is a confident boy," he reasoned.

Rangers feasted on the home side's lack of application in the first half, and opened the scoring via Aluko's 25-yard free kick after an Andy Webster foul on Maurice Edu. It was a wonderful display of ball-striking from Aluko, who is another of those "good things" to have come out of a trying season for Rangers.

Although the Nigerian was signed before the full scale of Rangers' financial chaos became clear, he has flourished this year. Andrew Little and Rhys McCabe may also look back with mixed feelings at the great Rangers financial meltdown of 2012. As awful as it has been for everyone connected to the club, it has accelerated their introduction to the first-team. Both Little and McCabe have managed to take advantage of the run of games they have been handed by McCoist, who watched Little score his third and fourth goals in his last five outings.

Both were poacher's goals. His first came after he had shown persistence, and no little canniness, to get on the end of a Lee Wallace cross, having pressurised Jamie MacDonald into flapping at the initial centre into the box. Little's third, scored with just two minutes left of regulation time, was sourced from another Wallace cross. The striker was left with the simple job of tapping the ball into an empty net.

Wallace, booed by the Hearts fans, had a fine match. While Little's emergence has been fast-tracked due to circumstances, Wallace is a reminder of days when Rangers felt it was acceptable to spend money they didn't have on top players from their rivals. McCoist had quipped on Friday that he hoped the full-back would get back on the bus after the game. Hearts are understandably anxious that they might not see the next portion of Wallace's transfer fee, when it falls due in the summer. McCabe, meanwhile, continues to impress in the middle of the park. The 19 year old warmed up for a big week in his young life with a calm and neat performance at Tynecastle, where the tight pitch means a sure touch is required. The Livingston-based McCabe returns to Edinburgh on Wednesday, when he hopes to start for the Scotland under-21 side at Easter Road against Italy.

Then there is the small matter of Sunday's league fixture at Parkhead, something the teenager intends to take in his stride. "It's a big part of being a Rangers player under any circumstances, going away to Celtic Park," he said, with reference to the hot reception which awaits Rangers. "There will be a lot of taunting because Celtic have won the league but, as I say, I don't think any of the boys in there will need much motivation."

The visiting players know they will also have to endure being heavily derided for the imperilled state of their club. Another win on the road would stand as a spirited response. McCoist, though, has given up hope that his side can cut their rivals' lead at the top to a margin smaller than ten points. "I would say that's unrealistic," he said.

Taken from the Scotsman

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