Last-minute Little saves 'Gers
A last-minute goal from youngster Andrew Little salvaged a point for Rangers in a 1-1 draw with Hearts at Ibrox this afternoon in a game where the absence of no fewer than eight first-team regulars meant that it was virtually a reserve side that Manager Walter Smith fielded.
There were two changes from Tuesday with Kirk Broadfoot and Kyle Lafferty replacing the injured duo Nacho Novo and Kenny Miller.
The game took some time to warm up - but Steve Davis' 25-yard free-kick in 21 minutes produced a superb one-handed save from visiting goalkeeper Marian Kello who touched the ball wide.
Five minutes later Broadfoot's header from a Kevin Thomson free-kick was inches wide.
A poor first-half ended goalless - but there would certainly be action aplenty in the second.
For the first time in the game Hearts threatened Allan McGregor's goal four minutes after the restart when Christian Nade's inswinging cross was left by Danny Wilson, forcing the 'Gers 'keeper to turn the ball past.
It was soon back to the other end where Sasa Papac tested Kello in 52 minutes with a thirty-yard left-foot drive that was held.
John Fleck was posing the greatest threat to the Tynecastle defence - and one solo run in 55 minutes ended with a curling 22-yard shot that flashed wide - then nine minutes later in a break from the halfway line the youngster released Lafferty through on goal only for the Ulsterman to see his effort blocked by Kello.
Nada was yellow-carded in 68 minutes for a foul on David Weir - then four minutes later the striker received his second booking, and consequent red card, when he booted the ball away angrily after being correctly flagged offside.
Unbelievably Hearts took the lead in 74 minutes when Lee Wallace's shot was parried by McGregor, allowing Scott Robinson to stab home the rebound.
The scores should have been levelled within two minutes when Davis' chip found Steven Whittaker who skied the ball over.
Walter Smith threw on youngsters Andrew Little and Gregg Wylde in an attempt to retrieve a desperate situation - and there can be no doubt that the substitutes made a difference in injecting pace and directness to the home attacks.
The Edinburgh side had been time-wasting throughout the game - antics that became more and more pronounced as the minutes ticked away, blatantly cheating as they feigned injury at every opportunity.
Hearts substitute Ryan Wallace might even have absurdly increased his side's lead in 87 minutes when his angled drive was beaten away by McGregor.
Two minutes later from a Thomson corner Kello for once mishandled, only for Papac to slice his shot over the bar.
It was a woeful effort - but Rangers finally salvaged a draw in injury time when Lee McCulloch's twenty-yard drive was parried by Kello, Little sweeping home the rebound.
Rangers went all out for the winner - but Hearts held on to escape with a scarcely-deserved point.
Later Walter Smith admitted: "I felt we controlled most of the game. Hearts are an awkward team to play against. Lapses in concentration cost us. We have not really been playing our best football recently. It is difficult when you have to throw in young players, but they did well. I thought John Fleck played very well."
RANGERS McGregor; Broadfoot (Little 78), Weir, Wilson, Papac; Davis, McCulloch, Thomson, Whittaker; Lafferty, Fleck (Wylde 85)
UNUSED SUBS Alexander; Mendes, Smith, Loy, Ness
HEARTS Kello; Thomson, Bouzid, Zaliukas, L. Wallace; Black, Jonsson, Stewart, Obua; Nade, Robinson (R. Wallace)
UNUSED SUBS Balogh, Cinikas, Visconte, Mulrooney, Balatoni. Smith
REFEREE Calum Murray