Rangers blew their chance to get back into the Premiership title race after a gutless 1-0 defeat by Hamilton as Celtic slipped up at Livingston to hand Steven Gerrard’s side a chance to close the gap at the top of the table – as they left the Ibrox pitch to a chorus of boos from disgusted fans.
Gerrard made four changes to the side that flopped at Tynecastle on Saturday as Ryan Jack, Scott Arfield, Greg Stewart and Ryan Kent all came out of the starting XI to be replaced by Glen Kamara, Ianis Hagi, Florian Kamberi and Alfredo Morelos.
That led to a change in shape for Rangers as they lined up with a midfield diamond with Kamara and Aribo in the wide areas, Ianis Hagi at the tip behind the pairing of Morelos and Kamberi and Steven Davis anchoring it in front of the back four.
It was almost all Rangers in the opening stages as the Ibrox side looked comfortable playing the ball around with intent in search of the opener, with both Aribo and Hagi going close in the first 15 minutes.
The early chances helped lift some of the tension which hung over Ibrox following the Scottish Cup defeat and dismal domestic start to 2020 and there was a feeling that the first goal was coming sooner rather than later for Rangers.
However, the Gers took their foot off the gas a little and allowed the visitors to get themselves into the game and turn it into a much scrappier affair, as both sides struggled to carve out any real chances.
With 30 minutes gone, Florian Kamberi had a fantastic chance to break the deadlock after some patient build-up play by Rangers but Southwood got down to save well.
For all of Rangers’ possession, there was little cutting edge from Gerrard’s side and the looming half-time break ramped up the frustration from the fans as the Gers struggled to break Hamilton down.
It really should have been 1-0 eight minutes before the break as Rangers broke at speed but Kamberi fluffed his lines.
The on-loan forward was fed in by Alfredo Morelos but fired straight at Southwood and really should have done much better with his effort.
Accies managed to do exactly what they set out to in the first half by frustrating Rangers and the visitors have their keeper to thank for keeping them in the game at half time.
HALF-TIME: Rangers 0-0 Hamilton
All level at the interval. Rangers dominating but unable to find the opening goal in the first-half at Ibrox. pic.twitter.com/rl0OUBZUEF
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) March 4, 2020
The second half was just a minute or so old when a cheer made its way around Ibrox as news of Livingston taking the lead against Celtic filtered through to fans and they looked to encourage the Gers.
Hamilton had to woodwork come to the rescue five minutes after the restart when Morelos crashed a header off the bar with Southwood beaten and it looking like Rangers were going to go 1-0 up.
Then came the sucker punch that Rangers feared as Hamilton took the lead after some calamitous defending.
Allan McGregor had just made a fantastic save to deny Ogkmpoe when Goldson took a crazy touch on the edge of the box, was robbed and Moyo poked the ball home with 35 minutes remaining.
Going a goal down prompted Gerrard into making his first change of the night as he brought Ryan Kent off the bench to replace Kamara as Rangers chased the game.
Kent looked lively after coming on and forced a good save from Southwood as the Light Blues upped the pressure looking for an equaliser, with Jermain Defoe coming off the bench to join him soon after with Kamberi making way.
The pressure almost paid off for Rangers when Defoe came within inches of poking home the winner after Morelos flashed the ball across goal, but the veteran couldn’t get to it and watched agonisingly as it went wide.
Gerrard took one last roll of the dice with 18 minutes to go – and Rangers looking visibly nervy – when he replaced Tavernier with Barker after the skipper picked up a knock.
The pressure on the Accies defence was relentless as Rangers tried to salvage their last hope for any domestic success this season and the visitors were doing a huge amount of work to frustrate the Gers as time got away from them.
Hagi almost got the little bit of luck Rangers needed to turn things in their favour when the ball bounced for him off the back of a Hamilton defender but Southwood pulled out a fantastic low save to keep it out.
Gerrard’s side continued to create chances as the game lurched into injuy time but there was no way past Southwood as Accies came away with a clean sheet.
It just wasn’t enough from Rangers as they huffed and puffed and watched any lingering title hopes disappear quicker than the Subway Loyal on the 80th minute.
Rangers: McGregor; Tavernier (Barker 72′), Goldson, Edmundson, Barisic; Aribo, Davis, Kamara (Kent 59′); Hagi, Morelos, Kamberi (Defoe 65′).
Subs: Foderingham, Katic, Halliday, Jack