Hearts issue a warning to Rangers

 

HEARTS gave Scottish Premier Division leaders Rangers a warning before the sides meet in next month's Scottish Cup final with a shock 2-0 victory last night.

A goal in each half from Neil Pointon and Allan Johnston sent Rangers sliding to only their third League defeat of the season and their second at the hands of Hearts.

The scoreline could have been even more convincing as Rangers whose lead at the top has been cut to four points after Celtic's draw with Kilmarnock chased the game in the closing stages and left gaps at the back.

Rangers had plenty of possession but little punch up front as Hearts defended desperately at times to keep them out.

Rangers had captain Richard Gough back in their side after a five week absence because of a calf injury, but he never looked comfortable at the back as the visitors' defence struggled to cope with the lively Johnston who had scored a hat trick at lbrox in January.

Also back in the Rangers ranks was midfielder Trevor Steven, playing his first League match since the opening day of the season.

Rangers almost made an early breakthrough when Paul Gascoigne tried to catch goalkeeper Gilles Rousset out with a quickly taken free kick but the Frenchman was alert to the situation.

At the other end, Gary Mackay fed Johnston but his 16 yards shot was just too high.

It took a desperate goal line clearance from Paul Ritchie to prevent Rangers from scoring in the 20th minute after Brian Laudrup shad sliced open the Hearts defence, but Ritchie stole the ball off the toe of Ally McCoist as the striker was poised to shoot. Six minutes later, Gascoigne waltzed past two defenders but shot high from 12 yards.

However, it was Hearts who made the breakthrough 11 minutes from half time when Pointon spied Andy Goram off his line and beat him with a 20 yard chip into the top of the net.

Rangers tried everything in the second half to equalise but Hearts held firm. McCoist shot wide from just inside the box after Laudrup had given him the chance and then Rousset leapt to his right to keep the ball out after Stuart McCall had thumped in a 20 yard volley.

But Hearts finished strongly and with seven minutes left Johnston took a Steve Fulton pass and outstripped Gough to round Goram before shooting high into the net.

Four minutes later substitute Kevin Thomas worked himself an opening but his shot was directed straight at Goram. Then on the stroke of full time, Johnston almost grabbed his second when Thomas laid the ball back into his path but he shot narrowly wide.