RANGERS put the hurt of 10 days since the last match behind them to pick up three points against Hearts at Ibrox as the Gers controlled the game from start to finish.
Goals either side of half-time saw the Gers stay in second in the Premiership. Rob Kiernan netted his first competitive goal for the club with a superb header on 29 minutes before Barrie McKay dinked home just after the break.
Ian Cathro was taking charge of the Jambos for the first time but couldn’t engineer a win as Rangers limited Hearts to feeding off scraps.
Rangers nearly lost part of their engine room early on when eight minutes in a heavy Arnaud Djoum challenge felled Andy Halliday. It looked like the midfielder wouldn’t continue after the blow to his lower leg but the Ibrox lad is clearly made of sterner stuff and after medical attention hobbled back onto the field.
Five minutes later Rangers were creating their first real opening of the game. A Barrie McKay corner was headed out to find a free Lee Wallace and the Gers captain put his laces through the ball to curve his shot just wide from outside the box.
With a third of the half gone Kenny Miller should have had the Light Blues in front after doing all the hard work. Danny Wilson sent a ball over the top to see the striker dart in behind the Jambos defence. Miller did superbly to control the ball and bring it down before sending a chip over the head of Jack Hamilton – it bounced agonisingly wide.
As at Tynecastle just 10 days ago it was the away side that had the ball in the net but the linesman’s flag was up. It was a tangle in the box that led to Hearts disallowed goal after Lee Hodson allowed the Edinburgh side in down the left. Kiernan deflected their cross towards Wes Foderingham, who saved, to start a pin ball effect in the box. The Gers keeper turned on the line to attempt to deal with a shot from the right before Don Cowie turned it in at the back post. Hearts wheeled away in celebration before realising the Scottish midfielder had been adjudged to be offside.
Lee Wallace was looking lively down the left and Miller found him on 24 minutes, with a wonderful threaded ball, which sliced through the Hearts backline on the angle. The left-back’s low shot was pushed away by Hamilton and Jason Holt failed to make an impact with the rebound.
A minute before the half hour mark Kiernan sent a bullet of header into the Hearts net to put the Gers ahead. James Tavernier’s whipped free-kick from the left was right into the mixer and the centre-half pushed through the Jambos defence to make sure it was his head which met it. Barely leaving the ground the 25-year-old opted for power which saw the ball soar past Hamilton.
Joe Garner, as ever, was in battling form and with six minutes to the break he ran down the Hearts keeper as he prepared to release the ball. Hamilton didn’t deal with the pressure from the Gers frontman and flapped to allow his clearance to cannon off the incoming Garner. It bounced a couple of inches wide of the far post.
Rangers started the second-half in control and within six minutes McKay had doubled the Gers lead. It was actually a Wallace throw in from the left which McKay eventually turned in. Somehow his long shy found its way to the right hand side of the box, bouncing over the heads of both John Souttar and Holt before the 21-year-old applied a brilliant finish to turn the ball between keeper and post.
Hearts had struggled to create an opportunity in the second period before Tavernier fouled Tony Watt on the edge of the box to concede a well-positioned free-kick. Djoum stepped up to take the set piece but his curling effort flew over Foderingham’s crossbar.
Martyn Waghorn had entered the game on the hour mark and nine minutes later was presented with a golden opportunity by a McKay through ball. It allowed the striker to spring through the Jambos backline with just Faycal Rherras keeping up with him. Yards from goal the 26-year-old checked back to try and pull the ball onto his favoured right foot but it allowed Hamilton to advance and he managed to block the following shot. Waghorn fed the rebound to Garner but his pass was moments too early for Tavernier to turn in at the back stick. Rangers were in control moving into the final 20 minutes of the game.
With ten minutes left Hearts found Bjorn Johnsen darting onto the edge of the area and he managed to skip away from his man to curl an effort goalwards. The striker couldn’t keep his strike on target though as it sailed high and wide.
Waghorn went close again as he cut in to try and sneak a ball in at the near post but he dragged it just wide with two minutes of normal time left to play.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Hodson, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace; Halliday, Holt, Tav; McKay (Burt 90’), Garner (Dodoo 88’), Miller (Waghorn 60’)
Subs not used: Gilks, Senderos, Crooks, O’Halloran
Goals: Kiernan 29’, McKay 51’
Yellows: Garner 42’
HEARTS: Hamilton, Paterson, Rherras, Rossi, Kitchen, Walker (Watt 50’), Djoum, Souttar, Cowie (Smith 81’), Johnson, Muirhead (Sammon 69’).
Subs not used: Noring, Ozturk, Buaben, Oshaniwa
Yellows: Kitchen 34’, Walker 40’, Djoum 45’, Paterson 67’