RANGERS fell to a disappointing defeat at the hands of Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle tonight in the Scottish Premiership.
An early Andraz Struna goal was cancelled out by Emerson Hyndman before half time, but the resumption of play after the interval saw Don Cowie and twice Jamie Walker net for the Jambos to hand them the three points.
Rangers were dealt a massive blow with just four minutes on the clock as Hearts raced into the lead. After Clint Hill was penalised in midfield for a foul on Esmael Goncalves, Don Cowie took a quick free-kick down the right wing which caught the Gers defence napping.
The ball reached Andraz Struna who chipped the ball up to the back post where, unmarked, Kystian Nowak was waiting to head the ball back across Wes Foderingham and into the back of the net.
The concession of such an early goal seemed to knock Gers, and the home side had further opportunities as Malaury Martin curled a free-kick wide of the target before he had a similar effort on goal which found the side-netting.
15 minutes had passed before Gers found their rhythm, and they fashioned a chance from a slip in the Hearts’ rear-guard. The ball dropped for Kenny Miller before he played in Martyn Waghorn who arrived to his right, cut inside his marker and fired for goal only to see his shot pushed away by Jack Hamilton between the sticks.
10 minutes later, and Waghorn again found himself with an opportunity as Nowak was short with a pass back to Hamilton which the Englishman intercepted, although with the angle closing all the time against Waghorn, Hamilton was able to smother the ball behind for a corner.
Rangers really were imposing themselves on the game, and after forcing a number of corners Barrie McKay came within a whisker of levelling with a ferocious 25-yard drive which went a matter of millimetres by the post.
Then, as Gers won another corner, McKay’s ball to the back post was met by Clint Hill, but he could only send his headed effort over the bar under little pressure.
The pressure was soon to tell on the home side as on the 36 minute mark, Rangers drew level. James Tavernier’s corner kick from the right was an outstanding one, right on top of goalkeeper Hamilton who could only fist the ball away, and his clearance bounced to the feet of Emerson Hyndman who hit a wonderful volley from 15-yards out into the roof of the net.
It truly was a sensational finish from the young American for his second goal in as many games, and certainly deserved for the period of play the Light Blues had leading up to the equaliser.
On the stroke of half time, some outstanding persistence inside the area from Jon Toral saw him manage to lay the ball off for Hyndman on the right edge of the six-yard box. His first time shot was superbly saved by Hamilton to preserve the scoreline going into the interval.
The second half however was to begin in a similar manner to the first period. Wes Foderingham bowled a ball out to Andy Halliday who was 25-yards from his own goal, but as he turned to play it forward, he was caught by Jamie Walker who curled an excellent effort into the back of the net to the left of the despairing dive of Foderingham.
And, five minutes later, things were to get even worse for Gers as Hearts scored from yet another quick free-kick. This time it was Bjorn Johnsen who was released early and his ball across the face of goal was met by Don Cowie for an easy tap-in at the back post to hand his side a two-goal cushion.
Then, that two goal advantage became a three goal one. Wes Foderingham punched a ball clear under pressure from Johnsen in an advanced area of the penalty box, but his clearance dropped for Walker to smash home another one and make it 4-1 to Hearts on what was becoming an increasingly disappointing night for the Light Blues.
And, but for a last-ditch interception by James Tavernier, Hearts could have had five and Walker a hat-trick as again he found himself through on goal only to be denied at the last possible moment by the full-back.
With 18 minutes left on the clock, Rangers thought they had a route back into the game as substitute Harry Forrester bundled the ball into the net after Hamilton had parried a Jason Holt shot into his path, but the flag of the assistant referee denied him his goal.
Walker then had another opportunity for his hat-trick, this time from a 25-yard free-kick which was arrowing for the top corner only for Foderingham to claw it away, and seconds later, the big goalkeeper was again at full stretch to deny Lennard Sowah netting from even further out.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Hill, Kiernan, Wallace; Halliday, Toral (Holt, 71), Hyndman (Windass, 60); Waghorn (Forrester, 60), Miller, McKay.
SUBS: Alnwick, Dodoo, Hodson, Senderos.
HEARTS: Hamilton, Hughes, Kitchen, Walker, Cowie, Nowak (Avlonitis, 71) Johnsen (Nicholson, 64) Struna, Sowah, Goncalves, Martin (Tzolis, 55)
SUBS: Noring, Choulay, Beith, Smith.
REFEREE: Kevin Clancy
ATTENDANCE: 16, 570.