Rangers manager Steven Gerrard marked his 1ooth game in charge of the Light Blues when they face Hearts at Tynecastle this afternoon – and it could be the one that sinks the Gers’ title dreams.
The Gers named an unchanged side from the midweek win over St. Mirren as they looked to close the gap at the top of the table back down to two points.
It was the hosts who had the bulk of the early possession without ever really threatening Allan McGregor’s goal before Rangers started to get a bit more of a foothold on the game.
Ryan Kent had a fantastic chance to open the scoring with 11 minutes gone after Ryan Jack’s wonderfully-weighted pass sent Kent through one-on-one with the Hearts keeper but the summer signing fired wildly over the bar and should have done much better.
Hearts new boy Liam Boyce had the ball in the back of the net a few minutes later after a poor header by Steven Davis left the Gers defence exposed but the assistant referee’s flag came to the rescue as the Northern Irishman was judged to have been offside.
Joe Aribo was next to try his luck as Rangers looked to get themselves ahead, despite being under the cosh a little, and the Nigerian international showed great awareness to get on the end of Kent’s flick-on but he couldn’t direct his shot on target as Hearts’ defence was all over the place.
There was a real lack of quality on show from either side and Steven Gerrard can’t have been happy with how anonymous his midfield were for long spells of the opening 45.
The Jambos continued to push forward and pose problems for Rangers and could even have found themselves in the lead had they been more clinical in front of goal.
After getting to half-time, the Gers rung the changes with Ryan Jack and Jon Flanagan both hooked as Scott Arfield and Matt Polster took their place.
The changes worked immediately as Rangers took the lead 42 seconds after the restart.
Kent’s surging run forward allowed Barisic to overlap and after feeding the Croatian out wide, he returned the favour and Kent fired the ball high into the net to send the travelling fans wild.
The lead didn’t last long however after a woeful error from Glen Kamara let the Jambos get possession just outside the area and Naismith finished from Boyce’s cross.
Aribo almost restored the Gers lead after some nice link-up play with Polster down the right but the midfielder’s strike went just outside the far post.
Gerrard turned to his bench one last time with 15 minutes remaining as Sheyi Ojo replaced the hugely disappointing Glen Kamara as the Gers tried to put more pressure on Hearts in the final third.
The Gers were in control of the game but almost fell behind to Euan Henderson’s strike but Connor Goldson cleared off the line before immediately having a chance of their own through Defoe, which the veteran fired into the stand.
Hearts then did the unthinkable as Liam Boyce netted a debut goal with seven minutes remaining as Gerrard’s 100th game as Rangers boss looked to be the one which put a massive dent in their title hopes.