But with a 3000-strong supporters protest before the game and chants of ‘sack the board’ throughout the match it’s clear the home fans hope Big Eck will be bringing his side back to Gorgie Road again next season.

Injuries ruled out Mikel Arteta, Steven Thompson and Shota Arveladze but the manager decided to stick with his new 3-5-2 system.

Once again Peter Lovenkrands was played through the middle and that gave Michael Ball the freedom to work the left flank.

In the opening stages the former Everton defender looked lively and he set up two chances, firstly for the young Dane and then Hughes, but neither shot really troubled Craig Gordon.

It’s always a lively match when the Light Blues come to Tynecastle and in recent seasons Alan Maybury has been involved in his fair share of scuffles, mostly with the now departed Neil McCann.

But inside the first quarter of this game the Republic of Ireland international showed both his good and bad sides.

In the 16th minute Maybury hit a tremendous strike from 25 yards and only a superb save from Stefan Klos denied him giving Hearts the lead.

Unfortunately nine minutes later though he picked up his ninth booking of the campaign after kicking out at Fernando Ricksen following a challenge.

In the 38th minute Rangers almost took the lead, albeit in the strangest of fashions. Fernando Ricksen’s corner was flicked on at the near post by McKenna, which Patrick Kisnorbo decided to head back to his own goal and only the crossbar saved the young Aussie’s blushes. 

From the resulting corner kick, however, Rangers should have broken the deadlock. Stephen Hughes’ volley, from the edge of the box, was heading straight into the top right hand corner but Craig Gordon matched the midfielder’s effort with a stunning save.

Two minutes later the Hearts keeper was at it again and tipped over Craig Moore’s powering header, from a Ricksen free kick.

The sides emerged unchanged after the break and Kenny Clark was called into action almost immediately. 

Webster felled Gavin Rae in the box but Clark waved away any claims for a penalty.

In the 54th minute though the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after Robbie Neilson body checked Peter Lovenkrands. 

With no Mikel Arteta and Shota Arveladze in the side club captain Craig Moore took the responsibility and coolly slotted home past Gordon into the bottom left hand corner to make it 1-0.

A defeat today would have all but ended Hearts’ hopes of beating Rangers into second place and Craig Levein decided to throw caution into the wind by replacing Webster with Dennis Wyness.

Within minutes though Rangers nearly doubled their lead when Fernando Ricksen had a header cleared off the line and Peter Lovenkrands blasted over from four yards.

With Webster being substituted Kevin McKenna moved back into defence and Ronald de Boer capitalised on a mistake by the Canadian in the 68th minute to run clear through on goal, but once again Gordon saved the shot well.

With 14 minutes remaining Levein’s gamble paid off and substitute Wyness volleyed home the equaliser. 

Craig Moore headed out Pressley’s free kick but it only dropped as far as the edge of the box and the former Inverness Cale Thistle hitman rifled his shot into the bottom right hand corner.

It was end to end stuff now as both sides pushed for the winner but there wasn’t another goal in this match and the deficit between the clubs stays at 12 points.

HEARTS: Gordon, Maybury, Pressley, Webster (Wyness 58), Neilson; Kisnorbo, Hartley (Janczyk 66), Stamp, McKenna; Hamill, Weir (Kirk 75)

SUBS: Moilanen, MacFarlane, 

Bookings: Maybury, McKenna

RANGERS: Klos, Berg, Moore, F de Boer; Ross, Ricksen, Rae, Hughes, Ball (Burke 86); R de Boer (Mols 75), Lovenkrands

SUBS: McGregor, Khizanishvili, Vanoli, 

Bookings: Moore 17, R de Boer 66

REF: Kenny Clark

ATTENDANCE: 14, 598

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Gavin Rae

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