The midfielder was instrumental as Alex Smith’s men put Rangers to the sword for the second time in just 20 days with goals late in the game from substitute Steven Thomson and Derek Lilley giving them a 2-0 win.
That came on the back of a Scottish Cup quarter-final victory earlier in the month but Dick Advocaat and Marcus Gayle’s calls for revenge for that defeat went unanswered at Ibrox today as they slumped to defeat.
Rangers now go to Easter Road to face Hibs next week knowing they need a victory to remain in pole position for that second Champions League spot with Celtic edging closer to being crowned SPL champions.
Advocaat is never a man to be scared when making controversial team selections and his decision to field Rod Wallace ahead of Billy Dodds in attack raised more than a few eyebrows in the 48,382 Ibrox crowd.
Wallace played in an Under-21 game last Monday night but that was his first run-out since appearing as a substitute against Brechin City back in January while Billy Dodds netted three goals in two games for Scotland last week.
But what would have delighted Advocaat was that he was allowed to field Tugay Kerimoglu, Jorg Albertz, Claudio Reyna, Barry Ferguson and Tony Vidmar who were all, like Wallace, making a comeback from injury.
The game, however, started slowly with very few clear-cut chances falling to either side. Tore Andre Flo worked hard up front but it was Marcus Gayle, playing through the middle, who posed the biggest threat to the United defence.
And it was the former Jamiacan international who almost grabbed his, and the game’s, first goal for the Light Blues in the 31st minute. He sent in a blistering 15-yard strike from an Albertz corner but Tannadice ‘keeper Paul Gallacher pulled off a tremendous save to tip the ball over the bar.
But just 60 seconds before Gayle’s chance it should have been United who took the lead when a man familiar to all the Rangers fans almost broke the deadlock. From the right side, Lilley whipped in a cross to the back post which Miller headed straight at Stefan Klos. He should have done better.
With three minutes to go before half-time, Rangers should have been 1-0 up and again it was Gayle who has the opportunity. Tugay played a lovely ball out wide to the striker who only had the ‘keeper to beat but his shot was saved. Advocaat was furious in the dug-out as a square ball to Wallace would almost certainly have resulted in a goal.
There was one change at the interval but it wasn’t for either team – it was the referee! Willie Young had to retire with a hamstring injury to be replaced by Craig Thomson. And two minutes after the re-start Thomson was called into action when Rangers had loud appeals for a penalty turned down after Jamie Buchan pulled Wallace down inside the box.
In the 53rd minute the Light Blues went close again when Wallace sent a header crashing against Gallacher’s crossbar from an Albertz cross. On the hour mark Fabrice Fernandes replaced Ferguson who appeared to hurt his rib again and Albertz took over as captain.
Frenchman Fernandes scored a wonder goal on his debut against Motherwell two weeks ago and he almost did again at Ibrox, sending in a thunderbolt strike in the 66th minute which came off the underside of the cross bar.
But four minutes later it was United who took the lead when Paul Robinson skipped past Scott Wilson on the right-hands side before crossing for substitute Thomson who sent a glancing header beyond Klos.
In the 79th minute things went from bad to worse when Bert Konterman failed to go to the ball and allowed Lilley to nip in and lob the ball over Klos. The Dutch defender was later booed by the Ibrox crowd for his error.
Dodds was thrown on late in the game to try and conjure up anything but unfortunately it was too little too late and next week’s trip to Easter Road now takes on massive importance.
RANGERS: Klos, Konterman, Wilson, Vidmar, Ferguson (Fernandes 60), Tugay, Reyna, Wallace, Flo, Gayle (Dodds 75), Albertz Subs (not used): Christiansen, Moore, Kauppila
DUNDEE UNITED: Gallacher, De Vos, Easton, Lilley, Robinson, Griffin, Hamilton (Thompson 35), Lauchlan, Buchan, Miller, McCunnie Subs (not used): Combe, Venetis, Partridge, Smith
Scorers: Dundee United – Thomson (70), Lilley (79)
Bookings: Rangers – Reyna (67), Vidmar (90); Dundee United – De Vos (39), McCunnie (68)
Referee: Willie Young
Man of the Match: Jorg Albertz
Moment of the Match: That fabulous shot by Fabrice Fernandes