The Light Blues had a lot of the ball against Albion on a bitterly cold day at Ibrox but lacked the penetration required to break them down and the game finished goalless.

That means Gers have won only one of their four meetings with the Binos this season and this game was as hard at times to endure as the other two in which points were dropped.

Ally McCoist’s men had gone into this weekend hoping this afternoon might see them land the Third Division crown at last.

But the postponement of Queens’ trip to Annan this morning because of snow put paid to that possibility.

Now there is the chance of becoming champions in seven days if victory can be achieved against Montrose at Links Park.

But that’s only if the Spiders don’t beat City and if they do, the Hampden side can still finish top if it overturns a currently vastly inferior goal difference.

It’s an unlikely scenario, of course, but three points for Gardner Speirs’ team against the Moray outfit will take the issue into April.

Manager McCoist was without eight players in total for this fixture after Fran Sandaza was suspended by the club yesterday.

Frustratingly, one of the others was leading scorer Andy Little, who found himself stranded in Belfast without a game after Northern Ireland’s match with Russia was postponed.

With so many bodies missing, McCoist selected one of the youngest Light Blues sides in living memory and particularly in midfield and attack.

With Kane Hemmings leading the line and Robbie Crawford, Fraser Aird, Barrie McKay, Seb Faure and Kyle Hutton behind him, those six had an average age of just 20.

Nevertheless, the hosts made a bright enough start as Lee Wallace forced a decent save from Sam Filler and Lee McCulloch’s dinked shot on the turn from a corner crept just wide.

Hemmings also headed a yard over after doing well initially to feed the ball to McKay on the right wing.

The English forward did well in a recent loan spell at Cowdenbeath recently, scoring four goals in as many First Division games at one point.

But he hasn’t played much since and that perhaps explained why he pulled a left-footed effort across goal and past the post with his next opportunity.

There weren’t many chances in a tame opening period but perhaps the best ones went Albion’s way just before the break.

Thankfully for the hosts, Aird was on hand to head Jordan White’s header away from under the crossbar when it seemed as though his attempt was going in.

Scott Davidson also fired over the upright when he had only Neil Alexander to beat from 12 yards at the back post.

Understandably, home fans got restless as Rangers struggled to get a grip of the game and failed to dictate the way they should have been capable of doing.

McCoist kept faith with his first XI for the start of the second half and Aird did well to cut inside past two men before seeing his low drive turned behind by Filler.

But that was the highlight of a turgid opening passage after the restart and it wasn’t until Kal Naismith’s introduction for McKay just after the hour that the tempo lifted again.

Suddenly Gers had some urgency again as Crawford’s half volley wasn’t far off target and his cut back to Hemmings was poked inches wide.

Wallace’s shot from distance was on target but lacked power while Hemmings didn’t get the connection he had hoped for as he met Chris Hegarty’s cross.

With that, the pace of the game dropped again and although the Light Blues were never in any great danger of losing, they didn’t look like netting themselves either.

The return of those who were missing – particularly the likes of Little – can’t come quickly enough as Gers look for a cutting edge that gets them going forward once more.

RANGERS: Alexander; Hegarty, McCulloch, Cribari, Wallace; Faure; McKay (Naismith 61), Crawford, Hutton, Aird (Argyriou 77); Hemmings (Mitchell 90).

SUBS: Gallacher, Murdoch.

BOOKED: McCulloch.

STIRLING: Filler; McCunnie, Thom, Bishop, Forsyth; Johnston (Cunningham 90), McClune, Ferry, Davidson (Weir 64), Flood (Ashe 77); White.

SUBS: Crawford, Day.

BOOKED: Davidson, Thom.

REFEREE: Craig Thomson. 

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