SPL - Rangers' miserable week ends with loss
There was no ray of sunshine for Rangers after a dark week as they slid to a 1-0 home defeat to Kilmarnock in front of a capacity crowd at Ibrox in the SPL.
Fans of the Glaswegian club had snapped up the last remaining tickets for the game after the announcement that the club had gone into administration, but they were rewarded by an insipid Rangers display.
Dean Shiels’ 12th-minute strike settled the game, but in truth Kilmarnock could have won by more had they taken their opportunities.
Sasa Papac saw red in the first half to add to Rangers’ woes, and they never looked liked finding a way back into the contest.
Banners of support were placed all around Ibrox as a crowd of 50,268 looked to give Ally McCoist and the Rangers team a boost.
The team did not respond, with Rangers looking sluggish and distracted in a dour first-half showing.
It might have been different had the hosts taken an early lead, but Liam Kelly made a goal-line clearance to deny Maurice Edu’s header from a Sone Aluko corner just eight minutes in.
Kilmarnock settled down thereafter, and found the opening when a slip from Dorin Goian allowed Paul Heffernan to play in Shiels to score with a composed, placed finish.
Heffernan, so often the chief threat for the visitors, should have doubled that advantage just a couple of minutes later, only to blast a shot wastefully over the bar.
Kilmarnock cut through Rangers on several occasions, and James Fowler missed the best of the opportunities, stroking a shot just past the post after being teed up by Heffernan just before the half-hour mark.
Aluko shot wastefully over from distance on a couple of occasions, while Goian had to be replaced by Ross Perry after appearing to struggle with a hamstring.
And it got still worse when shortly before the interval Papac launched recklessly at Kelly, and was sent off by referee Iain Brines for a dangerous challenge.
It left McCoist’s men with a mountain to climb in the second half. He swapped Mervan Celik for David Healy during the break in a bid to freshen up the Rangers line-up.
Rangers improved, but despite some more purposeful pressing from the home side, it was Kilmarnock who had the first opportunity of the second half, with Brines forced to turn down a handball penalty appeal after Ben Gordon’s shot was blocked by Carlos Bocanegra.
The chances continued to go the way of the visitors, with Mahamadou Sissoko wasting a good opportunity from a set piece by lifting a shot over the bar, and Gary Hay coming close to picking out Heffernan moments later.
Kirk Broadfoot also came off for Rangers on the hour after hurting his foot in the first half and never fully recovering, which prompted McCoist to switch to a 3-4-2 formation and push for a leveller.
Against the run of play Rangers almost had it, getting the ball in the back of the net through Lee McCulloch, but the striker’s back-post header from Aluko’s corner was ruled out after he pressured goalkeeper Cammy Bell.
Kilmarnock played out the remaining time with confidence, allowing the clock to run down and seal a victory which moves Kilmarnock up to sixth in the table.
For Rangers the on-field performance will in many ways prove secondary to the action away from the pitch in the coming weeks, but they will be left to reflect on a missed opportunity to give the club and its supporters a timely boost.