Rangers Four Points Clear
with a 2-1 win over Gretna at Fir Park, Motherwell
tonight - but it was a game where the League leaders
should have won by a considerable margin.
Chances were missed with alarming regularity in what
was very much a laboured performance - but equally
responsible for the tight scoreline was Referee Iain
Brines whose performance was almost a mirror-image of
his scandallously-inept officiating in the League
Cup-tie between Motherwell and Rangers on 31 October,
marking him as by some way the worst referee in the
SPL. His decisions, and those of linesman Steve
Pullar, arguably cost the visitors three goals in the
Manager Walter Smith made two changes from Saturday 5
January with Sasa Papac and Charlie Adam replacing the
suspended Alan Hutton and the injured Kevin Thomson.
The Light Blue legions dominated the ground, occupying
three of the four stands with the Gretna support
located in the Main Stand.
This was the first match at Fir Park since the tragic
death of Phil O'Donnell on 29 December.
Rangers made all the early running with Adam's shot
wide of target in two minutes, then seven minutes
later Chris Burke's twenty-yard shot flashed just
Next it was Ferguson's turn, his shot on the turn from
a Burke pass being just wide of the target in fourteen
Burke was seeing plenty of the ball - cutting in from
the right on a Steven Whittaker pass he saw his shot
held by Gretna goalkeeper Tony Caig in 25 minutes,
then on the half-hour mark he was denied again by the
'keeper following a run from the touchline.
Gretna finally got sight of goal in 35 minutes when a
slip from Carlos Cuellar allowed Kenny Duechar through
on goal only for Allan McGregor to block his shot.
Five minutes later Burke again threatened with a
penetrating run capped by an eighteen-yard angled shot
that flashed just wide.
Caig again kept his side on level terms in 42 minutes
when he clawed out a twenty-yard Adam shot from a Sasa
The opening goal arrived on the stroke of half-time
however when Ferguson netted after Daniel Cousin's
ball was head-flicked on by Naismith.
Most people would say that there is no better time to
score than just before the interval, yet incredibly
within forty seconds of the restart Gretna were level
when Deuchar headed home an Allan Jenkins cross.
It was a bad goal to lose, but a stunned Rangers
attempted to come back right away with a wide-angled
Adam free-kick from the edge of the box that was
touched wide by Caig.
Ferguson was next to be denied by Caig - through on a
Naismith pass in 52 minutes he saw his first effort
charged down by the 'keeper, his second hitting the
Two minutes later Cousin was clean through on goal
from a Ferguson pass only to be denied by a timely
interception from Danny Hall.
Iain Brines was about to come into his own however -
firstly denying Rangers a stonewall penalty when
Naismith was felled by Paul Murray in 55 minutes, then
four minutes later the referee, together with his
linesman Steve Pullar, somehow managed to be just
about the only people in the ground to fail to spot
that Caig was at least one yard outside his penalty
area when he caught a long ball from Ferguson, denying
Naismith a clear goalscoring opportunity. No penalty,
no red card for the goalkeeper - sound familiar?
Incredibly Rangers WERE actually awarded a spot-kick
in 61 minutes when Naismith was pulled back by Danny
Hall , only for that man Pullar to signal for offside
against the Ranger - yet another decision that was so
Five minutes later Jean-Claude Darcheville replaced
Naismith, a decision that was roundly booed by the
visiting support who rated the former Kilmarnock
player as one of their top players on the night.
The substitution quickly paid dividends however -
Darcheville releasing Cousin in 73 minutes, the Gabon
International rounding Caig before netting from a
Rangers controlled the remainder of the play, although
Gavin Skelton did have one final chance to equalise
with six mnutes remaining when his eighteen-yard shot
from an Allan Jenkins cross was deflected over.
Afterwards Walter Smith reflected:
"We needed the second goal. Gretna have made it
difficult for many teams, and defended well. An
element of frustration crept in over some of the
referee's decisions. There's a long way to go."
Gretna Manager David Irons was honest enough to admit:
"A few refereeing decisions went in our favour, but
GRETNA Caig; Barr (Makinwa 82), Hall, Collin, Naughton
(Canning 82); Yantorno, Murray, Osman (Buscher 29),
Skelton, Jenkins; Deuchar
UNUSED SUBS Fleming, McGill, McLaren, Baldacchino
RANGERS McGregor; Whittaker, Cuellar, Weir, Papac;
Burke, Ferguson, Hemdani, Adam; Cousin, Naismith
UNUSED SUBS Carroll, Broadfoot, Boyd, Novo, Lennon,
REFEREE Iain Brines