RANGERS couldn’t take advantage of results elsewhere to move second in the Premiership table as they played out a draw at Ibrox.
The Gers peppered the Saints goal in an end-to-end second-half but couldn’t make their chances count.
Joe Garner headed home his second goal for the club just before the break after the Light Blues had fallen behind with just five minutes played. The 28-year-old had a superb chance to win the game 15 minutes from time but his nodded effort skimmed the bar and Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace saw efforts blocked on the line.
St Johnstone had the lead in their first attack of the evening. Lee Hodson was caught in possession just inside the box, Blair Alston nicked it off his toes and tried an audacious one that curled round the diving Wes Foderingham and nestled in the back of the net.
Rangers had started brightly and inside four minutes Harry Forrester had turned on the pace down the left, electing to go it alone, and sent a low swirling strike at Zander Clark. The keeper could only parry it out and the rebound came off a Saints defender before Jason Holt could pounce. But with the game young the Gers had to chase it.
On 13 minutes Josh Windass darted inside, lost his marker, looked to his left and laid off to Wallace. The full-back had crept forward into an advanced role and unleashed a fizzing low shot which Clark was forced to palm away at his near post.
Forrester was returning to the starting line-up after missing out on Sunday’s Old Firm squad and he looked keen to prove a point to his manager. He skipped into the left channel to move his way through the St Johnstone defence and shoot, trying to sneak it inside the post. Clark scooped up his effort with ease though.
Rangers were slowly taking control of the game and they went close again when Andy Halliday threaded a ball through to Wallace on 20 minutes. The captain was on the charge into the box and shot across goal but it bounced just wide of the target.
St Johnstone countered quickly soon after and Christopher Kane managed to get into the Gers box from the right and execute a decent effort. Much as Wallace’s had panned out at the other end his shot whizzed past the far post and out for a goal kick.
Rangers were back in it with eight minutes to go until the break as summer signing Garner grabbed his first Ibrox goal. Michael O’Halloran had done well down the right to win a corner and Windass stepped up to take it. Garner leapt highest to meet the in swinging ball and beat his marker in the air to send a glancing header beyond Clark.
With a minute to half-time Windass went close to making it two for the Gers with a pile driver of a strike. The midfielder sprinted into space with the ball at his feet and let fly from 25 yards out. Such was the power of the shot Clark could only palm the dangerous effort away.
The second half was barely two minutes old when St Johnstone broke down the left to give the Gers a fright. Holt screamed for a foul and lost concentration to allow Daniel Swanson in and he nearly beat Foderingham at his near post with a close range toe poke.
Liam Craig put one just inches over Foderingham’s bar from distance moments later as the Light Blues started the second period in faltering fashion. Swanson was at it again just before the hour mark, forcing the Gers keeper into a save after a snap shot from outside the area.
On 66 minutes Foderingham was diving to him left to stop Kane from taking the lead for the Saints. He turned on a six pence to lash a shot from 10 yards out and the Rangers Number One was quickly down to save and keep his side in the game.
Rangers needed a goal and Garner was nearly lethal with his head once again on 74 minutes. Wallace stormed down the left to the by-line to cut a fizzing ball back. Garner was running into the box and collected on the penalty spot to head into the ground and the ball bounced just inches over Clark’s bar in agonising fashion for the former Preston striker.
The Saints responded by going up the other end and hitting the woodwork. They attacked quickly down the left to let Alston fire a first time shot off the post. It was becoming end-to-end stuff.
Rangers were up next, a short corner from the left finding its way to substitute Miller, who laid off to Wallace. The full-back’s fierce volley was on target but it was his own man, Garner, who cleared off the line by accident.
Miller picked the ball up on the right to cannon a sweet strike goalwards with a minute left to play and this time Swanson threw his body in the way to block and deny Rangers a winner.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Hodson, Kiernan, Hill, Wallace, Halliday, Holt, Windass (Miller 67’), O’Halloran, Garner (Waghorn 83’), Forrester (McKay 76’)
Subs not used: Gilks, Tavernier, Dodoo, Crooks
Yellows: O’Halloran 16’, Garner 56’
Goals: Garner 37’
ST JOHNSTONE: Clark, Alston, Anderson, Millar (Wotherspoon 83’), Swanson, Shaughnessy, Paton, Foster, Easton, Kane (Cummins 68’), Craig
Subs not used: Mannus, MacLean, Coulson, Gordon
Yellows: Millar 36’, Easton 56’
Goals: Alston 5′