London Hearts Supporters Club

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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Lisa Gray auth-> Charlie Richmond
2 of 022 ----- L SPL A

Rangers 0 Hearts 0

By Lisa Gray, PA Sport

Rangers failed to improve their prospects of a second-place finish in the Bank of Scotland Premier League when they were held to a goalless draw by Hearts at Ibrox.

A win would have allowed them to move eight points clear of one of their main rivals for the runners-up spot - and a crack at the Champions League next season.

Aberdeen's win over St Mirren means they are now Rangers' closest challengers in the SPL.

Walter Smith came through tricky games against Dundee United and Dunfermline - teams Rangers had struggled to beat earlier in the season - to launch his return to Ibrox with consecutive wins.

But he faced his toughest test yet in the shape of a Hearts team who pipped Rangers to the runners-up spot in the SPL last season and are determined to do so again.

However, Hearts are never far from controversy these days and star players Craig Gordon and Paul Hartley were both missing from the squad for one of their most important games of the season - 24 hours after they were included in a list of players up for sale.

Hartley has been strongly linked with a move to Rangers and his absence was for "football reasons", while head coach Valdas Ivanauskas claimed before kick-off Gordon had not fully recovered from a groin injury.

The Hearts team-sheet - or rather the names omitted from it - threatened to overshadow that of Rangers, even though new signing Ugo Ehiogu was handed his debut at the heart of defence following his midweek move from Middlesbrough.

Fit-again Libor Sionko was also added to the starting line-up, meaning Karl Svensson and Chris Burke had to settle for a place on the bench - in Burke's case just days after he signed a new two-year contract.

David Weir could have fired Rangers into an early lead with a close-range effort but Hearts goalkeeper Steve Banks managed to tip over the crossbar.

Nacho Novo then flashed a dangerous ball across the face of goal but there was no-one there to stab home and Banks managed to smother.

Rangers had the best of the early chances and Barry Ferguson set up Sionko for the shot but he blasted well over.

At the other end, Hearts had a decent chance when Alan Hutton fouled Andrius Velicka 25 yards out.

Bruno Aguiar curled the resultant free-kick over the Rangers wall but goalkeeper Allan McGregor dived low to his right to save.

Rangers should have been ahead midway through the first half.

A Charlie Adam corner was nodded into the six-yard box by Kris Boyd and broke to Sionko but he somehow managed to prod wide from a few yards.

Boyd then squandered a great opportunity when he was dispossessed by Christophe Berra in front of goal before he could pull the trigger.

Christos Karipidis picked up the first booking of the game for a foul on Ferguson shortly before the break.

Hearts made their first change after an hour when Saulius Mikoliunas was replaced by Lee Wallace.

They then found themselves under pressure when Takis Fyssas fouled Hutton on the edge of the box but Adam's free-kick was comfortably cleared by the Jambos defence.

Adam then saw a drive held by Banks, after being set up for the shot by Ferguson.

Rangers threw Filip Sebo into the action in place of Boyd, while Hearts swapped Marius Zaliukas for Ibrahim Tall.

Ferguson had the ball in the back of the net with 12 minutes to go - following good play between Novo and substitute Burke - only for Ibrox to erupt in fury when the effort was ruled offside.

Adam's name was then added to the referee's book for a foul on Neil McCann, as tempers threatened to spill over.

Rangers looked by far the team most likely to snatch the win - but they failed to find the killer touch that would allow them to put even more daylight between themselves and Hearts, and their advantage over Aberdeen is now just four points.


Rangers McGregor, Hutton, Ehiogu, Weir, Murray,Sionko (Burke 72), Ferguson, Hemdani, Adam, Boyd (Sebo 67),Novo.

Subs Not Used: Klos, Svensson, Rae, Lennon, Lowing.

Booked: Adam.

Hearts Banks, Karipidis, Zaliukas (Tall 68), Berra, Fyssas,Mikoliunas (Wallace 59), Aguiar, McCann, Driver, Bednar,Velicka (Elliot 81).

Subs Not Used: Kurskis, Brellier, Jankauskas, John Armstrong.

Booked: Karipidis.

Att: 50,321

Ref: Charles Richmond (Scotland).

Taken from

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