Hibernian ended Rangers’ 100% winning record as they won two-one in this Championship tie at Easter Road earlier this Sunday lunchtime.
Jason Cummings and Paul Hanlon scored either side of a Darren McGregor own goal in an action-packed match for all the right reasons.
Mark Warburton opted for a couple of personnel changes and a change of formation to a 3-5-2 from a 4-3-3 with Danny Wilson replacing winger Gedion Zelalem to help make up that trio at the back while Nicky Clark was in for striker Kenny Miller – who has a groin injury – in a like for like swap from their one-nil win away at St. Mirren Park last weekend. Alan Stubbs made one alteration with centre-back Liam Fontaine dropping to the bench for midfielder Fraser Fyvie and reverted from the 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 after they won last time out against Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy.
John Beaton officiated proceedings in front of 14,412, with 3,800 of those being Gers fans. It was the home side that got the match underway in front of the raucous crowd and attacking towards the South Stand.
The game was in its’ early infancy when Lewis Stevenson put in a mistimed challenge on Jason Holt. It should have resulted in a penalty. However, the referee decided against blowing the whistle that was perched in between his lips.
Two minutes later and Dominic Ball flew in at knee height and was correctly cautioned for his foul on John McGinn who was clever in creating space to attack that last line of defence.
The first real spell of possession for either side almost presented the game with the opening chance. Dominque Malonga picked up the ball 30 yards out and threaded the ball in between the two defenders but was unfortunate that McGinn could not get his feet positioned to properly put Wes Foderingham under pressure.
Later on and it was the former St. Mirren player’s wayward corner that actually started the chain of events in the lead up to the opening goal. David Gray picked the ball up and won a throw-in that he gave to Cummings who got in front of Danny Wilson and waltzed past him to rifle the ball with precision into the side netting past Foderingham between the sticks who had no chance diving to his right. That was the striker’s 11th of the season, having scored in his last five and his sixth in eight appearances against the Glasgow outfit.
After struggling from a time after the goal, Dylan McGeouch came off injured in the 20th minute. He was replaced by a more defensive minded player in Marvin Bartley who sat in front of the back four and to tried to protect the lead.
The dominance of the team in green continued with Malonga being key in the final third in creating chances with his stylish flair making more than a few Light Blues miss.
The away side lived up to their Teddy Bears nickname even when they got more of a foothold on the game but failed to threaten from corners or free-kicks. Mark Oxley had little to do until James Tavernier’s strike at the end of the first third of the match forced him into a very good save.
Liam Henderson earned a booking for a succession of fouls throughout festivities as the first half petered out with just one minute of stoppage time played.
The statistics suggested this game was very even – and it was – but the side from the capital looked more dangerous and deserved their goal lead at the half.
Just 90 seconds into the start of the second half and it was last year’s Rangers’ player of the season that had a hand in helping his old team get back into the game. Captain Lee Wallace unleashed a strike from outside of the box, and it hit Darren McGregor on his heel and diverted the yellow Mitre’s course past a stranded Oxley in goals.
Ball almost returned the favour as Henderson’s grounded cross almost ended up with the Tottenham loanee inadvertently blasting the ball into his own net.
The Gers should have taken the lead when Martyn Waghorn forced another save from the tall Englishman before Holt struck the bar from less than 10 yards out with the rebound.
Warburton was the first to make a tactical change after 55 minutes with Wilson and Clark being replaced by Nathan Oduwa and Gedion Zelalem to try and find that second and elusive goal by conforming to their usual 4-3-3 system.
The very attacking away side were fortunate not to be caught out on the break as McGinn’s fantastic flighted ball was cushioned down by Cummings as he sprinted away from the defenders but gave Foderingham a comfortable save to make.
James Keatings entered the fray with only a quarter of the match to play as Liam Henderson made way for the striker as Stubbs matched up formation with his counterpart. This did not stop the flurry of action for both sides as shortly after Oduwa hit the woodwork in a not too dissimilar place and manner where Cummings scored the opener.
Waghorn was booked correctly as McGinn was sprinting down the left-hand side and taken out to stop him leading the charge on the counter. The 21-year-old continued to cause havoc as his 30-yard free-kick stung the palms of the former Swindon Town stopper. Then his corner delivery was better this time as it entered the six-yard box and Paul Hanlon met it at the back post with a thundering header in with less than 20 minutes to go.
Frustrations boiled over nothing really late on as Fraser Fyvie, Bartley, Oduwa and Andrew Halliday were all booked in the last five or so minutes. The former Brentford manager’s last throw of the dice was to bring on the former Hibs attacker Dean Shiels on for Wallace to try and preserve their 100% winning record. Alas, it was to no effect as the Hibees held on and closed the gap at the top of the second tier to five points with another two of the fixtures to take place before seasons’ end.
Man of the Match: John McGinn.
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