RANGERS 0 HIBERNIAN 0
Rangers went down to a third consecutive defeat at the hands of Hibernian at Ibrox on Friday night.
Kenny McDowall made six changes from the starting line-up that had crashed out of the Scottish Cup last Sunday with Lee Robinson and Marius Zaliukas coming in for the suspended Steve Simonsen and Lee McCulloch.
Sebastien Faure, Darren McGregor, Andy Murdoch and Kris Boyd came in for Richard Foster, Remie Streete, Ian Black and Jon Daly.
Rangers went into this game mindful that in the last two meetings between the clubs they had conceded no fewer than seven goals in 3-1 and 4-0 reversals – but made a positive start with Haris Vuckic and Kenny Miller combining inside 30 seconds for Boyd to test Mark Oxley with a shot on the turn that the ‘keeper held.
Vuckic was prominent in the opening exchanges – before 10 minutes had elapsed his powerful drive from the edge of the area was parried by Oxley, Miller seizing on the loose ball only to see his shot headed off the line by Liam Fontaine.
Vuckic was involved in almost every ‘Gers attack – just past the quarter-hour mark he found Miller who from 25 yards sent in a dipping shot that was turned over by Oxley.
In such an encounter the opening goal is inevitably crucial – and just when it appeared that Rangers were on the verge of doing precisely that they were hit with a classic sucker punch when Hibs struck with what was virtually their first attack of the night – Scott Allan’s ball inside releasing Jason Cummings through on goal.
Robinson was alert to the danger, the outrushing ‘keeper blocking the shot only for Scott Robertson to slot the ball home.
Rangers attempted to respond – but were hit with yet another injury blow just after the half-hour mark when the impressive Miller limped off with a groin injury to be replaced by Nicky Clark.
Vuckic continued to be the Ibrox men’s most potent threat – a 20-yard drive from a Nicky Law pass being held by Oxley on 40 minutes.
The interval score-line was harsh on a Rangers side which had been a vast improvement on that of recent weeks.
The Light Blues continued to have the majority of possession and pressure as the second-half unfolded – Faure coming agonisingly close with a header from a Murdoch corner in 55 minutes, then shortly afterwards Boyd should have done better than head wide from the Frenchman’s cross.
In a last throw of the dice McDowall made a double substitution in 77 minutes when Jon Daly and Dean Shiels came on for Boyd and Vuckic. The withdrawal of Vuckic was met with derision by the ‘Gers fans whilst that of the ineffective Boyd was long overdue.
Rangers were denied a stonewall penalty three minutes later when a net-bound Zaliukas volley was blocked by the hand of Scott Robertson
To add insult to injury Hibs promptly ran up the park and sealed the win with a second goal when substitute Fraser Fyvie – on the park for just four minutes - found Lewis Stevenson who hooked the ball into the net in 81 minutes.
Hibernian were 2-0 winners – having scored with their only two efforts on target of the entire game.
Rangers: Robinson; Faure, McGregor, Zaliukas, Wallace; Law, Murdoch, Hutton, Vuckic (Shiels 77); Boyd (Daly 77), Miller (Clark 31)
Unused Subs: Kelly, Aird, Black, Halkett
Hibernian: Oxley; Watson, Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson; Gray, Allan (Fyvie 77), Robertson, McGeouch; Malonga (Dja Djedje 84), Cummings (Boyle 62)
Unused Subs: Cerny, Forster, Craig, Stanton
Referee: Steven McLean