CIARAN DICKSON grabbed a late equaliser for Rangers under-21s in the City of Glasgow Cup this afternoon to keep up their bid for a place in the final.
Gers were the better team throughout, but fell behind to a Luca Connell opener before Dickson struck with five minutes left to play to rescue a point for his side.
It was Rangers who began the better, winning the midfield battle and dominating possession, and naturally, that led to the opening chance of the game.
That man Dickson broke from midfield down the right, before being felled on the edge of the penalty area to the right of goal.
James Maxwell took the resulting free-kick, though his curling effort only just cleared the bar.
Jake Hastie then had the next opportunity, driving deep into the Celtic box from the left before his strike from a very acute angle took a massive deflection off Leo Hjelde to send it goalbound, only for goalkeeper Ryan Mullen to somehow claw the ball off the line.
Time and again Gers were a real threat down both wings through the likes of Hastie, Josh McPake, Nathan Patterson and James Maxwell, and their deliveries were forcing the visitors into some real, last-ditch clearances to prevent goalscoring opportunities.
Against the run of play, however, Celtic couldn’t have come closer to taking the lead. Luca Connell’s corner came off the inside of the far post with before coming out to Liam Burt on the edge of the area to strike a volley off the bar.
Then, on 34 minutes, they grabbed the lead. Connell was allowed space 25-yards out to get a shot away, and he fired it low beyond the reach of Brian Kinnear and into the net.
It was a blow for Gers as the interval approached, but they re-focused at the break and were soon back to dominating the ball.
The Light Blues were handed a boost on 55 minutes with Ewan Henderson shown a second yellow card. Minutes after being cautioned for a poor foul on Cammy Palmer, he slid in late on Dickson, leaving referee David Dickinson with no option but to dismiss the Celtic midfielder.
Gers ought to have been in front just after that with Maxwell collecting a low McPake cross around 15-yards out, and while the full-back did superbly to get the ball out of his feet, he fired over.
Mullen then did well to push away a McPake effort from 25-yards while Hastie headed over a stunning Dickson cross from close range.
On the break, Celtic looked dangerous with Kinnear making three superb, point-blank saves to deny Cameron Harper and twice Barry Coffey.
Mullen then made an outstanding stop at the other end to push a net-bound Kai Kennedy free-kick from 25-yards round the post, while Danny Finlayson had a header on a Kennedy corner go just over.
Finally, however, the equaliser arrived for Rangers on 85 minutes. This time Kennedy delivered into the area for Dapo Mebude, who found his way to goal blocked, but Ciaran Dickson managed to get himself on the end of the loose ball.
With the aid of a massive deflection, his shot looped up and over Mullen, and eventually nestled in the back of the net.
It was the least Gers deserved from the game, and though they couldn’t find a winner, the Academy staff will be pleased with how the youngsters stuck to their task in the Milngavie sunshine this afternoon.
RANGERS: Kinnear; Patterson, Breen (McClelland, 84), Finlayson, Maxwell; Palmer, Dickson, Kennedy; Hastie, McPake (Williamson, 84), Mebude.
SUBS NOT USED: Budinauckas, Butterworth, McKechnie, King, Miller.