Johnston proves to be ace in Tynecastle pack Out of touch Rangers humbled by Hearts
By KEN GALLACHER
22 Jan 1996
Rangers 0, Hearts 3
CHAMPIONS Rangers find themselves this morning facing up to a clutch of warnings, one of which is obvious and was powerfully spelled out to them by a young Hearts team which arrived at Ibrox refusing to be overawed by either the crowd or the reputation of their opponents.
Quite clearly, the Ibrox men cannot afford to let the high standards they have maintained over the last seven-and-a-half years slip as badly as they did on Saturday.
That warning would have been made clear to the players in the dressing room after the game by manager Walter Smith, who must have looked on in disbelief at the slip-shod play of so many of his players.
Two further warnings came from the experienced Hearts goalkeeper, Gilles Rousset, and, again, the suddenly vulnerable looking champions should pay heed to the Frenchman's views, which were offered after the match.
Rousset would not be drawn completely on whether Celtic - the side who defeated Hearts at Tynecastle last midweek - or Rangers, the team the men from Edinburgh had just humbled, would take the premier division title.
"In the Celtic game, it seemed to me that their players wanted to win more than Rangers did today," he said.
"That was the major difference I saw.
Both teams are very strong and it is hard to separate them.
They are both big clubs, but Celtic seemed more positive.
"It will be difficult for Rangers to keep the title, but there still is a long way to go." Rousset then offered words which may bring a little comfort while still carrying a warning for Rangers.
"They missed Paul Gascoigne and when he plays they are a different team, a much better team," he said.
"When he returns he will bring that extra class which can win Rangers the title.
"He would be the difference between Rangers and Celtic.
When he is out they are not the same team.
I do not know Gascoigne, but I admire him as a player.
Hearts manager Jim Jefferies said: "We deserved the win and could have scored five or six goals.
Rangers had one good chance in the first half but I can't remember them creating any chances after half-time.
"We were determined to come and play football.
We didn't want to sit back and defend.
We wanted to play the ball around and use Alan Johnston in a different role in the middle of the park.
It worked out for us.
"We picked the right team for this game and got the tactics right, too.
We felt we were a little bit unlucky against Celtic in midweek and wanted to get the points today." Not even Jefferies, however, could have believed that his players would get the three points with such ease.
Nor that Johnston would take his first senior hat trick with such confidence.
Johnston followed Rangers as a youngster, but any feelings for the Ibrox side were submerged as he helped himself to the goals which were the first conceded by Smith's men in the premier division since November 25.
Even then, they won that match against Hibs at Easter Road by 4-1.
Afterwards, Johnston said: "I can't believe that I have scored a hat trick.
I used to come here as a kid to watch Rangers, but never thought I would score three goals against them.
"As far as I'm concerned, we might have lost to Celtic on Wednesday but we outplayed them, just as we outplayed Rangers today.
Now, we want to aim for a European place." On this form Hearts could win a UEFA Cup place, though Rousset believes that they can win the Scottish Cup and end the years of misery the Tynecastle club have suffered.
Whatever, Rangers have their own problems to deal with and Smith stressed after the game: "We lost a bad opening goal.
Basically, we had possession, gave the ball away, and were punished.
After that, we didn't really recover.
"The second-half goals came when we were pushing forward trying to save the game.
We were chasing the game then and they were through in the same way on a couple of other occasions.
We have the cup game next week and that allows us some breathing space from the league programme." It may also allow Smith the opportunity to hand out a few home truths to several players who failed him and the Ibrox support on Saturday.
Too many Rangers players - as Rousset pointed out - did not show enough urgency.
Gordan Petric never recovered from the blunder which caused the opening goal and was uncomfortable against the small, quick Hearts forwards until he was substituted at half-time.
David Robertson had one of those days when his concentration wandered far too often and Ian Durrant and Charlie Miller were anonymous in midfield.
When you put all of these below par performances together, you can see why Rangers slumped so badly.
That, though, should not detract from the verve displayed by Hearts and, particularly, by Johnston, who took the match ball home with him and will, no doubt, have it bronzed and guarded by lions before his weekend memories fade.
Taken from the Herald