DESPITE an extremely bright opening period, Rangers were held by St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park this evening in the Scottish Premiership.
A long spell of Gers pressure yielded a Barrie McKay opener, but his strike was cancelled out by Steven MacLean after a mix-up at the back.
Mark Warburton made three changes to the side which beat Inverness on Saturday, with Danny Wilson, Josh Windass and Kenny Miller coming in for Lee Wallace, Lee Hodson and Martyn Waghorn.
It took seven minutes for the first effort on goal of any note, and it came from Josh Windass from the edge of the ‘D’ following a neat through ball from stand-in captain Kenny Miller.
Miller was involved again seven minutes later when he showed a superb burst of pace to go beyond the Saints backline and into the area, but he was forced wide and from an acute angle, he still forced goalkeeper Zander Clark into a smart stop to his right.
It was all Rangers in the opening stages, and after a Barrie McKay corner was only half cleared, the ball dropped for James Tavernier 25-yards from goal on the left-hand side and on the half-volley he shot for goal with his effort cannoning down off the underside of the bar, onto the line before being smuggled away to safety.
It looked only to be a matter of time before Gers made the breakthrough, and on the 22 minute mark, it duly came through Barrie McKay. His pass found Joe Garner on the edge of the box with his strike spilled by Clark only as far as McKay. He still had to beat defender Joe Shaughnessy which he did magnificently before rifling the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
With the balance of play the way it was, Rangers going on to notch a few more goals looked a real possibility, but five minutes after taking the lead, the scores were level once more and it came from a mistake in the Gers rear-guard.
Rob Kiernan was loose with a pass back to Wes Foderingham in goal allowing Steven McLean to nip-in, round the goalkeeper and fire into an empty net.
It was a massive blow for Gers who had played so well that point, and it took them a few minutes to regain their composure on the ball once more. When they did, Joe Garner ought to have finished after being fed by a McKay ball across the face of goal, but his shot was blocked by Paul Paton.
The start of the second half was tentative too, with the first chance coming in the 56th minute where an excellent ball from Garner found Josh Windass inside the box to the left of goal, but his on-target effort was deflected over by Steven Anderson.
The quiet period extended onwards to the 75th minute which is when Gers’ next effort on goal came as substitute Martyn Waghorn flashed a shot wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the area.
That sparked a more positive period of play for Warburton’s side, with much more of the action being played out in the Saints’ half of the pitch, but chances remained at a premium as the home side held out for a point.
Gers now move on to face Celtic on Saturday at what is sure to be a rocking Ibrox Stadium.
ST JOHNSTONE: Clark, Alston (Scobbie, 43), Anderson, Millar (Craig, 69), MacLean, Wotherspoon (Swanson, 79), Shaughnessy, Paton, Foster, Easton, Cummins.
SUBS NOT USED: Mannus, Watson, Kane, Hunter.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Hill (Hodson, 66), Kiernan, Wilson, Garner (Waghorn, 62), Miller (O’Halloran, 81), McKay, Windass, Halliday, Holt.
SUBS NOT USED: Gilks, Forrester, Crooks, Senderos.
REFEREE: Mr Crawford Allan