RANGERS picked up a second draw in a week as they failed to find the net at Rugby Park.
Much talk before the game had been of Pedro Caixinha’s makeshift back four in his first away game in charge but his defence managed to keep a clean sheet against Killie. The home side had a gilt edged chance to win it at the death but Sean Longstaff headed wide with the goal gaping.
The issue was at the other end where the Light Blues failed to capitalise on their chances – Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner having the best chances of the game but finding Freddie Woodman in great form in goal.
With Rangers lining up with a back four who had never played with each other before Killie began the game looking to take advantage. With two minutes gone they swung in a free-kick from the left, which they won from a James Tavernier foul out on the flank. Gary Dicker rose to meet it but the former Carlisle man planted his header right at Wes Foderingham.
Rangers were struggling to create anything clear cut in the opening stages but sprung to life on 15 minutes through Waghorn’s hard work down the left. After spotting Joe Garner lurking in the box the striker wriggled away from his marker to whip an in swinging ball towards his partner. Garner was just inches away from connecting with the cross as he leapt to meet it with his boot.
Neither side were taking the game by the scruff of its neck and Killie were down the other end a couple of minutes later and giving Foderingham a scare. Connor Sammon turned and twisted on the right of the area to free himself of his markers. The on loan striker then fashioned a superb effort as he attempted to curl the ball into the top corner with the outside of his foot.
The Light Blues responded instantly through Barrie McKay as he darted down the left and squared a ball to Emerson Hyndman on the edge of the area. The American’s low drilled shot was a decent effort but Freddie Woodman dived to save with some ease.
On 27 minute Waghorn muscled his way through the Kilmarnock defence to get to the by-line. His cut back was met by Hyndman at the near post but he fumbled the shot and the home side cleared for a corner before he had another chance to turn the ball over the line.
Garner should have headed Rangers ahead on 33 minutes. Killie failed to deal with McKay’s initial corner and the ball came loose to the winger out on the left again. His whipped ball was met by the striker but from close range he nodded straight at Woodman and the Newcastle United loanee pulled a good save off to palm the ball out of play.
From the resulting corner Waghorn had a similar effort but this time from a Jason Holt cross from the right after he linked up with McKay. The Gers top scorer sent his header wide of the near post though as half-time edged ever nearer.
Killie had a great chance just before the break to make an impact when Tavernier tugged back Jordan Jones as he sprinted into the box after breaking free down the left . The challenge was just on the edge of the area and Kris Boyd tried to drill a low free-kick through the Gers wall but it was well blocked.
Hyndman made way at the break for Kenny Miller as Caixinha shifted things about for the second-half.
Within 10 minutes Garner had hit the bar and the Light Blues should have had a penalty. A McKay cross started a string of dangerous corners for the visitors after Garner headed down and Waghorn couldn’t bundle the ball past Woodman. Former Preston man Garner met the following corner cleanly and Woodman got a hand to his bullet header to send the effort cannoning off the woodwork.
Another corner and again McKay send a dangerous set-piece into the box. This time Sammon appeared to hook the ball clear with his forearm. The Rangers players protested but Alan Muir didn’t listen and waved their cries away.
Rangers were nearly punished for not capitalising on their pressure when Sammon popped up at the other end unmarked from a corner on 57 minutes. He had just Foderingham to beat as he hung out on the left of the box, a few yards out, but be nodded down weakly into the plastic turf.
Tavernier picked out Waghorn down the right on 65 minutes and the striker wriggled free of Kristoffer Ajer at left-back to cut into the box. The on loan Celtic defender stuck with the forward until he fired at Woodman at his near post and the stopper clawed the ball behind for another corner. David Bates rose highest to meet that but his header couldn’t find its way past the Killie keeper either and Rangers were still looking for their goal.
Garner headed over just after the 70 minute mark and that was to be the striker’s last involvement as he was replaced by an altogether different attacking threat in Joe Dodoo.
With the game nearing an end Rangers were trying to make it happen but their endeavour wasn’t coming to much. Tavernier curled a good low cross in on 83 minutes and Halliday met it with a glancing header but it bounced wide of the far post.
Rangers had drawn this game at Rugby Park back in August too and that night it took some magic from a Tavernier free-kick to get them on the scoresheet. The full-back lined up a near carbon copy two minutes from time but saw it sail over the bar.
Killie should have nicked it at the death when Sean Longstaff missed a sitter. Taylor weighted a perfect ball onto his head and Foderingham came out but couldn’t meet it before Longstaff did. All he had to do was glance it beyond the Gers number one but he nodded the wrong side of the post. That proved to be the ultimate let off for Caixinha’s side.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Bates, Wilson, Beerman; Halliday, Holt, Hyndman (Miller 45’), McKay; Waghorn (Windass 80’), Garner (Dodoo 73’)
Subs not used: Alnwick, A.Wilson, Toral, O’Halloran
Yellows: Tavernier 43’, Hyndman 44’, Garner 51’
KILMARNOCK: Woodman, Sammon, Jones, Hendrie, Dicker, Longstaff, Boyd, Ajer, Taylor, Kiltie (Roberts 90’), Wilson.
Subs not used: MacDonald, S. Boyd, Smith, Cameron, Osborne, Frizzell
Yellows: Dicker 84’