EMERSON HYNDMAN scored an injury time winner for 10-man Rangers to sink St Johnstone in a dramatic match at Ibrox Stadium this evening.
Leading 2-0 through Barrie McKay and Martyn Waghorn, David Wotherspoon pulled one back for Saints before Rob Kiernan was sent off and Steven Anderson leveled matters. But, as Gers looked to be heading to a fifth league match without victory, Hyndman struck to send Ibrox wild with delight.
Before the game, caretaker boss Graeme Murty had called on his charges to get off to a lively start, and they certainly did with Emerson Hyndman coming within a whisker of opening the scoring inside three minutes.
Martyn Waghorn did well to dance into the area and saw an initial effort blocked by Joe Shaughnessy, but the ball dropped kindly for the American and he flashed a wicked drive just wide of Zander Clark’s left upright.
Tommy Wright’s Saints’ are always an extremely well organised side however, and they came close to grabbing a lead with Stephen MacLean profiting from a loose Jon Toral pass in midfield before racing forward and unleashing an effort which only just whistled by the post.
Toral then could, and in all truth should, have made amends for that error in style, meeting a delicious James Tavernier free-kick with his head inside the six-yard box, with the ball ending up off-target, and then Hyndman again fired wide of the same post, this time from a Barrie McKay pass to set him up on the edge of the area.
There was much to admire about the early stages from Rangers, and the grabbed a deserved goal to hammer home their advantage in the 22nd minute.
Hyndman this time forged a terrific path into the Saints’ box before being crowded out. The ball ricocheted out for the arriving Lee Wallace to hit, but his effort was also charged down before dropping to the feet of McKay on the edge of the area to slew a beautiful effort beyond Clark’s outstretched right arm.
That joy was almost short lived, however, as the Perth men broke straight from kick off with their move ending with Blair Alston – so often deadly against Gers – firing a shot wide of target, while former Ger Richard Foster saw a header go straight into Wes Foderingham’s gloves from a deep cross.
That was the last chance the visitors had in the half however, with Rangers continuing to keep almost total ownership of the ball while creating the odd opportunity.
Indeed, Jason Holt – who was adding so much dynamism to the Rangers midfield – was only denied by an excellent Clark save to claw the ball from the top corner after Holt had let fly from 25-yards, while Tavernier also brought a save out of Clark with an effort from a similar distance.
The second half began with St Johnstone on the front foot, and they missed an almighty opportunity to equalise with Liam Craig sending a header wide from inside the six-yard box after being picked out by a Keith Watson cross from the right wing.
And where Craig failed, Waghorn took advantage with a similar effort just seconds later to hand the Gers a two-goal lead.
Kenny Miller picked the ball up deep in the Saints half and delivered a wonderful ball across the face of goal for Waghorn to simply nod beyond Clark to give his side a deserved cushion.
And, it could have got even better straight from the restart with Waghorn driving at Brian Easton before apparently being felled by the former Hamilton Accies man in the penalty box, but referee Kevin Clancy failed to make a decision of any sort.
Joe Garner replaced Kenny Miller after 64 minutes, and within a minute of coming on, the Englishman passed up a great opportunity to seal the three points.
Emerson Hyndman who was having such a terrific game, again danced his way into the penalty area, evading panicked defender after panicked defender, before the ball eventually broke for Garner inside the six-yard box, but his first-time shot hit the post rather than the back of the net.
And that missed chance was to come back to haunt Gers as St Johnstone gained a foothold in the game with 74 minutes played through David Wotherspoon.
The former Hibs man worked a yard inside the Rangers penalty area and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner beyond the reach of Foderingham.
The goal really came out of the blue, and within three minutes, the task facing Gers became even harder with Rob Kiernan being shown a straight red card for a challenge on Graham Cummins.
And that task for the Light Blues proved to be too much, with St Johnstone levelling the game through Steven Anderson after 86 minutes. The big defender found himself free in the area following a corner kick, and he had the simple task of burying the ball beyond Foderingham.
Rather than feel sorry for themselves though, Rangers dusted themselves down and looked to find a winning goal. Hyndman firstly struck the bar with an effort straight from the restart that had Clark beaten all ends up.
And then, with the game in injury time, the American found space in the box to turn after Clint Hill had nodded-down a long Danny Wilson ball into his path, and he fired the ball into the back of the net to send Ibrox wild with delight.
indeed, it could have got even better a minute later with McKay breaking free beyond the last St Johnstone defender, but his effort in trying to feed the supporting Jason Holt was in vain.
But Rangers will take their victory, which was certainly deserved for what was largely a very good performance.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Kiernan, Hill, Wallace; Holt, Toral (Halliday, 82), Hyndman; Waghorn (Wilson, 82), Miller (Garner, 64), McKay.
SUBS: Alnwick, Forrester, Hodson, O’Halloran.
ST JOHNSTONE: Clark, Alston (Cummins, 66), Anderson, MacLean, Swanson (Wotherspoon, 70), Shaughnessy, Paton, Foster, Watson (Coulson, 82), Easton, Craig.
SUBS: Mannus, Scobbie, Smith, Thomson, Cummins.
REFEREE: Kevin Clancy