RANGERS were held to a 3-3 draw by Raith Rovers in a dramatic and topsy-turvy game in Kirkcaldy this afternoon.
From being 1-0 down and pegged back to 2-2 at one stage, Kenny Miller had Rangers ahead in the second half, with Harry Panayiotou seeing a penalty saved before he made amends, grabbing a scrappy equaliser with effectively the last kick of the ball.
Backed by a travelling support that numbered in excess of 5,500 and covered three stands, Rangers had to withstand some early pressure from the home side with Danny Wilson and Jason Holt forced to play clearing balls from around their own penalty area.
But Rangers, as they so often do, soon began to control the football, and after an Andy Halliday free-kick cannoned off the wall, the ball broke wide for Harry Forrester who clipped a pass to the back post for Kenny Miller, but the striker couldn’t quite control the ball and the chance had gone.
Out of nothing though, Raith grabbed a shock lead.
Rangers failed to clear their lines, and that allowed the ball to drop 25-yards from goal for Louis Longridge, and he hit a sweet volley over Wes Foderingham and into the back of the net.
They came close to a second goal as Joel Thomas sprinted down the left wing before sending an effort across Foderingham’s six-yard box.
That goal and warning eventually stirred the Light Blues into life, with Forrester bringing a superb save out of Raith goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert as he met a James Tavernier cross six yards from goal.
From the resultant corner however, Rangers did manage to get on level terms.
Quick thinking from Barrie McKay saw him find the unmarked Forrester loitering at the front post, and he directed an excellent, low header into the bottom corner, well beyond the reach of Cuthbert.
It was exactly what was required from a ‘Gers perspective, and at last the flowing football the fans have become accustomed to began to become a feature in the match.
And, a typically fantastic Rangers move saw them go 2-1 ahead through Michael O’Halloran.
Beginning with McKay out on the right, he found the run of Forrester into the corner of the box, and as he shaped to shoot, he played a superb ball into the path of O’Halloran who was arriving at the back post, and he fired home from almost a yard out to give his side the lead.
At this point, Mark Warburton’s men would usually be expected to accelerate away, but Rovers hit back with an equaliser of their own to make it 2-2.
A hopeful cross from Iain Davidson found James Craigen unmarked inside the area, and his shot seemed to trickle over the line and beyond the reach of Foderingham.
It was a breathless period in what had begun as a rather uneventful half, and with events in Paisley changing by the minute, the mood of the thousands of Bears in Stark’s Park was altering all the time too.
Into the second half, and Rangers emerged fired up by whatever boss Warburton had told them in the changing room as they took the lead again within three minutes of the restart.
Bursting through midfield and riding two tackles in the process, Andy Halliday delivered a wonderful, defence-splitting pass into the path of Kenny Miller who arrived just at the right time to thump the ball beyond Cuthbert in emphatic style.
Given the defensive frailties of recent weeks, Rangers were always going to need more than just a single goal lead to feel comfortable, and as an outrageous Forrester pass with the outside of his right boot found the run of Jason Holt inside the area, it looked as if they were going to get that cushion but the little midfielder fired an effort over the bar, albeit from an angle.
Rob Kiernan had to look lively with a last-ditch interception to deny Harry Panayiotou after he burst clear from midfield, while Foderingham gathered a Joel Thomas strike from distance at the second attempt.
In the final minutes, Raith were awarded a penalty as Panayiotou went down under a Rob Kiernan challenge, but after dusting himself down, he saw his kick saved by Foderingham who read his shot and saved it low to his left.
Raith did however equalise with effectively the last kick of the ball. Rangers failed to deal with a corner and after a goalmouth scramble, Panayiotou poked the ball home to earn the Rovers a share of the spoils.
The result, couple with Hibernian’s slip at St Mirren does however mean Rangers can clinch the Championship with victory at home to Dumbarton on Tuesday.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace; Halliday, Holt, Forrester (Zelalem, 80); McKay (Shiels, 72), Miller, O’Halloran (King, 60).
SUBS NOT USED: Bell, Ball, Law, Clark.
RAITH ROVERS: Cuthbert, Thomson, Callachan, Toshney, Bennedictus, Davidson, Thomas (Connolly, 74), Longridge (Panayiotou, 60), McKeown, Craigen (Anderson, 74), Barr.
SUBS NOT USED: Law, McCord, Matthews, Court.