RANGERS brought the curtain down on their Ibrox Championship season in rather disappointing fashion, drawing 1-1 with Alloa Athletic at Ibrox this afternoon.
In front of the biggest attendance at Ibrox on seven and a half years, the already relegated side proved a tough nut to crack, and took a shock lead through Michael Duffy before the home side responded through James Tavernier on the stroke of half time.
Rangers began the game in a composed fashion, stroking the ball about impressively on what was an immaculate Ibrox surface, but the capacity crowd was to be stunned with eight minutes on the clock with Alloa taking a shock lead, although it came courtesy of yet more extremely suspect defending from the home side.
Trying to find Wes Foderingham with a back-pass, Andy Halliday’s ball was intercepted by Michael Duffy 25 yards out from goal, and with the centre-halves split, he fired beyond the outstretched Foderingham in the Light Blues’ goal.
The strike silenced the buoyant Ibrox atmosphere, and it took the home side a good few minutes to resettle themselves before once again beginning their assault on the Wasps’ goal.
Nicky Clark was first to try his luck, forcing a smart stop from ex-Ger Scott Gallagher, before Jason Holt and then Gedion Zelalem let fly from the edge of the area in quick succession, Holt firing over and Zelalem working Gallagher low to his right.
Clark then thought he had restored parity, firing beyond Gallagher when fed by Nicky Clark, but he was denied by the linesman’s flag, and the striker was involved again seconds later, playing a superb one-two with James Tavernier, but the full back could find only the side netting from what was an acute angle.
The pressure was building all the time, with Billy King next to find the gloves of Gallagher, before Zelalem again followed suit, both from the edge of the area.
Rangers’ biggest chance to date came in the 41st minute as Barrie McKay was felled by another former Ranger in the shape of Kyle McAusland inside the area, with referee Craig Charleston pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Halliday as he tried to make amends for his earlier error, but he fired well wide of the left-hand post, as supporters around the stadium wondered if their side would ever find a way back into the match.
On the stroke of half-time though, they eventually did, with the goal coming from the head of James Tavernier for an incredible 15th goal of the season for the full back.
From the corner of the box, Halliday chipped a ball into the six-yard area which Gallagher flapped at, allowing Tavernier to nod beyond him and at last give Rangers the leveller they craved and more than certainly deserved.
It gave them the platform to approach the second half in a little more of a relaxed situation, and they began the new period by playing some excellent football.
Halliday, still trying to atone for his earlier misdemeanours, played a wonderful ball with the outside of his foot into the path of King who had advanced beyond the Alloa defence, only for Gallagher to produce an excellent, last-ditch save to deny him.
That same combination of King shooting and Gallagher saving was to come to the fore again minutes later, this time after King was fed by Holt
With 15 minutes left, Warburton introduced Liam Burt for only his second first-team appearance to try and liven up what had become extremely flat proceedings, and his presence appeared to have the desired effect as after a long period where very little happened, Rangers started creating chances again.
After Barrie McKay had hared down the left and crossed to the back post, Burt was there to meet his ball, but the frame of Gallagher denied the 17 year-old his first senior goal with another excellent save.
James Tavernier then tried his luck at winning the game, playing a neat exchange with fellow full-back Lee Wallace, but he fired wide of the post.
Zelalem then had another chance to win the game in the final minute of normal time, but he fired a Liam Burt cross well over the top of the bar.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace; Halliday, Holt (Shiels, 64), Zelalem; King (Burt, 75), Clark (Miller, 64), McKay.
SUBS NOT USED: Bell, Ball, Law, O’Halloran.
ALLOA ATHLETIC: Gallagher, McAusland, Hill, Hamilton, Marr, Duffy, Holmes (McManus, 61’), Caddis (Layne, 65), Flannigan (Ferns, 81), Hetherington, Megginson.
SUBS NOT USED : D Crawford, Finnie, Hynd, Wilson.