THERE were 35,018 inside Ibrox to watch Gers draw their third game in a row against play-off rivals Queen of the South. A late Harris Vuckic goal looked like it would win the game but Queens had other ideas.
Substitute Aidan Smith popped up to deny the Light Blues with four minutes left to play.
The game was just three minutes old when Nicky Clark curled a shot a fraction wide of Queens’ right post. Clark had picked out Nicky Law with a lovely little hooked ball into his path. Law returned the favour by bombing into the box and cutting back for the forward just inside the area. The Rangers team looked keen to open the game with the zest that had been missing at Cowdenbeath three days earlier.
Clark had another chance to open the scoring as the 15 minute mark ticked by. With the ball bouncing about the box it was flicked onto his head and he stooped low to try and nod beyond Alexander Clark. He was to be denied again though, as the keeper held the ball which fired directly at him.
Jon Daly picked up the rebound after Harris Vuckic’s strike had taken a deflection on 27 minutes, forcing Clark into a low save. The big Irishman was arriving into the six-yard box with pace and failed to control as he sent the ball cannoning over the crossbar.
Fast forward a couple of moments and Rangers had a scare when Michael Paton got through one on one with Lee Robinson and hit his post. But the 25-year-old had failed to spring the off-side trap successful and the linesman raised his flag to save his blushes. And then ten minutes later Gavin Reilly had the chance to nod Queens ahead but his close range header soared a foot over the Gers bar.
Vuckic looked determined to add to his goal tally in Glasgow as half-time approached. He put his head down and aimed for the Doonhamers’ top corner with a powerful dipping shot that fell just wide of the intended target. And Ibrox joined him in roaring for a penalty when he attacked down the left channel and skipped into the box- he clattered to the floor but referee John McKendrick waved the pleas away.
There was little for either team to write home about as the second half opened at a snail’s pace. Daly headed well wide at the near post and Paton had a strike straight at Robinson in a dreary 15 minute period.
So it was no surprise when McDowall looked to his bench to inject some freshness into the Light Blues. Youngster Tom Walsh replaced his fellow academy graduate Andy Murdoch and made an immediate impact by getting beyond his man to whip a dangerous ball in. The 18-year old was making just his second appearance for the first team after making his debut in 2012 at the tender age of 16.
After all he had done to threaten Vuckic was to get the rewards in the 77th minute. The number 10 was quickest to pounce on a flick on from Clark in the six yard box and poked the ball home, much to the relief of the Ibrox masses. Clark was falling but managed to get his toe to the ball in time to assist – the forward was face first in the turf when the net bulged. The Slovenian wheeled away to celebrate with the jubilant bench.
But the celebrations weren’t to last long as Queens levelled with four minutes left to play. Robinson made a great double save but a rebound fell to Smith who tapped home to deny Gers the win.
Walsh stormed forward in stoppage time and put his laces through a shot straight at Clark and Kris Boyd couldn’t snaffle up the rebound in time as the final whistle blew.
RANGERS: Robinson; McGregor, McCulloch, Zaliukas, Wallace (Mohsni 82”); Murdoch (Walsh 65”), Hutton; Law, Clark, Vuckic; Daly (Boyd 79”)
Subs not used: Simonsen, Black, Miller, Shiels.
QUEEN OF THE SOUTH: Clark, Dowie, Higgins, Holt, Carmichael, McShane, Millar (McKenna 76”), Kidd, Paton, Reilly (Smith 83”), Russell
Subs not used: Atkinson, Mitchell, Pickard, Hooper, Smith.