ALLY McCOIST’S players have made history this afternoon by becoming the first Rangers side in 115 years to go an entire league season unbeaten albeit they couldn’t mark the occasion with a win at East End Park.
Dean Shiels’ close range finish a minute into the second half looked to have given the Light Blues a win in their last outing of the 2013/14 season in League One but Dunfermline’s Lewis Martin hit back on 70 minutes when he outjumped the Gers defence and headed home an excellent equaliser from a corner.
The result at the final whistle will no doubt frustrate McCoist who would have hoped his side could have made it 18 wins from 18 away games in Scottish football’s third tier.
The Pars however ensured this wasn’t the case with a hard-working display but the Rangers players should be proud of their efforts this season and to have gone through the league campaign unbeaten is hugely impressive.
In 1899 it was William Wilton’s Gers who won all 18 of their league matches to win the title 10 points ahead of second placed Hearts. Comparing the two achievements is difficult but nothing should be taken away from McCoist’s men.
Today’s result means Rangers finish the season on 102 points with 106 goals scored but it was always going to be a tricky test against Jim Jefferies’ young side.
With crucial play-off matches coming up the experienced gaffer named two over-30 players – John Potter and Craig Dargo – in his starting XI and the rest were 21 or below.
Their enthusiasm was there for all to see but as expected it was the champions who applied the early pressure. With just a minute on the clock captain Lee McCulloch’s near post shot from Aird’s corner was parried away by Ryan Goodfellow in Dunfermline’s goal.
At the other end Allan Smith produced a neat bit of control in the box but his snap shot on the turn went wide of target.
It was making for an intriguing encounter and with 32 minutes gone a long ball played up by Stevie Smith was knocked down by Jon Daly but his strike partner Shiels fired an effort across goal and out for a goal kick.
With five minutes of the half remaining Aird then produced a powerful run down the left wing and his teasing low delivery into the six-yard box for Daly was booted into the travelling Bears by John Potter.
From the resulting corner Aird then curled the ball in and when McCulloch nodded the ball back into the danger area Bilel Mohsni powered a header off the top of the cross bar.
Despite the lack of goals before the break there was certainly a lot of effort put in by both sides and this continued throughout the 90 minutes.
But it was Rangers who opened the scoring just 34 seconds after the restart. Nicky Law found space inside the 18-yard box and after he had an initial shot blocked the ball came back to him and his next effort was saved. The rebound dropped kindly for Shiels who drilled a shot into the empty net.
Having got their noses in front it was now all about concentration once again for the Rangers players as they looked to record one final victory on the road.
Mohsni, however, was guilty of a moment of slackness when he was dispossessed inside his own half by Pars number nine Allan Smith.
The striker managed to sprint into the 18-yard box but Stevie Smith did brilliantly to get back and make a perfectly timed tackle.
Nicky Law then looked to have doubled his side’s advantage when he headed a Peralta cross into the net but the far side linesman had already raised his flag for offside.
This proved a turning point as Dunfermline got back on level terms on 70 minutes. Alex Whittle delivered an excellent corner and Martin rose above the Gers defence to head the ball off the underside of the bar and over the goal line.
Following the equaliser the Pars enjoyed their best spell of the match as they retained possession and pushed bodies forward into the last third.
This however left gaps at the back and with 11 minutes remaining an Ian Black shot took a wicked deflection off John Potter and smacked off the post.
This was to be the last chance for Rangers to net a winner and although there was a look of frustration on the players faces as they made their way back to the tunnel they should be proud of their efforts throughout another historic campaign on The Journey back to the top.
Now for the Championship.
DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC (5-3-2): Goodfellow; Williamson, Young, Potter (Page 81), Martin, Whittle; Graham (Husband 61), Byrne, Spence; Dargo (Mercer 81), Smith
SUBS NOT USED: Wilson, Millen, O’Kane, Thomas
GOALS: Martin 70
RANGERS (4-4-2): Bell; Faure, McCulloch, Mohsni, Smith; Peralta (Little 68), Law, Black, Aird; Daly, Shiels (Clark 79)
SUBS NOT USED: Simonsen, Murdoch, Hutton, Sinnamon, Crawford
GOALS: Shiels 46