However, such was their second half domination Dick Advocaat will be feeling this was a missed opportunity to put Hibs firmly out of the equation.

With Fernando Ricksen returning to the team in excellent style in a wing back role, Rangers should have won the match due to the chances they created.

Billy Dodds was the main sinner with a quite remarkable miss 11 minutes into the second half but with a game in hand at Kilmarnock on Wednesday the runners-up spot looks secure.

For a match which meant so much to both clubs there was a subdued atmosphere in the Leith sunshine as the teams took the field and, sadly, the game failed to live up to is billing.

Neither side really got their passing game going early on, although Rangers had the better possession and the better chances, and the majority of the action took place in tight midfield areas.

Rangers failed to utilise their width properly in the opening moments, especially as Fernando Ricksen had so much space on the right, although they got this right in the second half but they still should have gone in at half-time with a lead.

They forced two freekicks in good areas inside the first quarter of the game but failed to do anything with either of them. Paul Fenwick conceded both with fouls on Tore Andre Flo and in the first instance in seven minutes Claudio Reyna shot over the top.

Bert Konterman, playing as sweeper in a three-man Rangers defence, at least forced Nick Colgan to make a save in 16 minutes with his set piece but his effort was straight at the Hibs keeper.

Rangers were certainlly not having it their own way, however, and Sergio Porrini was forced into handling the ball just outside the box in 12 minutes to stop Russell Latapy going in on goal. He earned a booking for his actions but Franck Sauzee wasted the deadball, shooting high over Stefan Klos’s goal.

The Frenchman was more accurate in 19 minutes with a freekick from a tighter angle but Klos was right behind it and punched clear while a David Zitelli corner in 25 minutes caused problems as Grant Brebner got on the end of it but his header came off Arthur Numan for another corner.

Rod Wallace really should have done better in 32 minutes when Reyna’s corner was firsly headed on by Flo and then Konterman but, perhaps unaware of his bearings, Wallace headed wide.

It was more encouraging for Rangers and they had an even better opportunity in 38 minutes which was borne out of utilising the width of Ricksen.

The Dutchman’s ball into the middle was good but Billy Dodds’ lay-off as even better as he set up Flo on the right side of the box. The Norwegian only had Colgan to beat but shot straight at the Irishman and the chance was lost.

Perhaps buoyed by that and suitably enouraged by Dick Advocaat at half-time, Rangers were a more purposeful proposition in the early moments of the second half. However a mixture if misfiring and misfortune prevented them from taking the lead.

In the best move of the game, Reyna brilliantly slid the ball down the right side in 56 minutes to find Ricksen in plenty of space. Ricksen’s cross was perfect, low and far enough away from Colgan, to find Dodds at the back post.

It seemed a formality that Dodds would force the ball into the net but from six yards the little striker bundled a left foot shot past the left hand post and the small band of Rangers supporters behind the goal scarcely believed it.

The woodwork then saved Hibs in 60 minutes. Numan burst forward and cut inside to hammer a shot with his less favoured right foot which Colgan pushed onto the cross bar and then Fenwick cleared.

Only a brilliant blocking tackle by the same player five minutes denied Rod Wallace the chance of a left foot strike at goal and at this stage Hibs could scarcely find a way out of their own half.

They did force a freekick 13 minutes from time when Konterman felled Zitelli but the Frenchman’s effort from the deadball was easily held by Klos.

In the end a draw suited Rangers much more than it suited Hibs. The six-point advantage remains and that could be increased to nine if Rangers can win at Kilmarnock on Wednesday.

Still, for a match which was so meaningful it was a major disappointment.

HIBS: Colgan; Smith, Sauzee, Fenwick; Murray, Arpinon (Lehmann 71), Jack (Brebner 8), Latapy, Laursen; Zitelli, Paatelainen. Subs not used – Franks, McManus, Libbra.

Bookings: Arpinon (35), Zitelli (37), Brebner (65) Murray (90)

RANGERS: Klos; Wilson, Konterman, Porrini; Ricksen, Reyna, Ferguson, Wallace, Numan; Dodds, Flo (Albertz 80). Subs not used – Christiansen, Tugay, Miller, Fernandes.

Bookings: Porrini (12), Ricksen (45), Dodds (53).


Ref: John Rowbotham.

Man of the match: Fernando Ricksen.

Moment of the match: Reyna’s superb pass to release Ricksen in 56 minutes.

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