Rangers 1 Hibernian 1
Steve Naismith put Rangers’ draw with Hibernian down as two points lost as the Ibrox side could only sit and watch Celtic take over at the top of the Scottish Premier League yesterday.
With memories of their Champions League mauling against Unirea Urziceni still fresh, Rangers were desperate for a positive reaction and started well when Kris Boyd claimed an early opener.
But the Scottish champions were denied the three points when Anthony Stokes levelled for the visitors and, although it was not enough to lift Hibs into pole position in the SPL, the away fans returned to Edinburgh far happier with the result than their Rangers counterparts.
“In any home games you’ve got to look at a draw as two points dropped, but our performance was much better,” said Naismith.
“In terms of how we have played recently it was much better. We haven’t created as many chances in a while, but we should have won the game.
“It’s a problem if you don’t take your chances and Hibs ultimately went up the park and scored. That was the story of the game.
“The way we played was encouraging. All the boys know our performance on Tuesday wasn’t good enough. It was massive that we improved.”
Kyle Laffferty was given a starting role in one of four changes made by Rangers boss Walter Smith and the Northern Ireland international supplied the header for Boyd to stab Rangers in front, from just two yards out, after eight minutes.
Hibs went close to restoring parity when a Merouane Zemmama effort cracked off the post. Athough Stokes put the rebound in the net the offside flag was already raised.
Rangers could have added to their lead when Lee McCulloch punted an inviting ball into the box and Boyd nodded on for Kenny Miller but he managed to direct his header wide of target from close range.
Smith was forced to make a change to personnel shortly before the break when McCulloch limped out of the action and was replaced by John Fleck.
Seconds later Boyd was denied what looked certain to be his second goal of the day when Graham Stack raced off his line and did well to block, before McGregor pulled off an equally impressive save to deny Stokes.
Rangers carved out the best of the chances after the restart and David Weir blasted wide from a Fleck corner, before Boyd saw a long-range drive palmed to safety by the Hibs goalkeeper.
But it was Miller who should have had the net bulging. He threw himself in front of a Smith free-kick and looked on in disbelief as his header clipped the crossbar.
The striker then appeared to have his jersey tugged in the box but managed to stay on his feet to pull off a shot only for Stack to stick out a hand and divert wide. There were more screams for a penalty when Steven Davis went to ground under pressure from Sol Bamba but there appeared to be little in the incident.
The champions were threatening again when Fleck sprayed a pass out to Steven Naismith on the right wing and he delivered a lovely ball into the box but Miller arrived at the back post just too late to make contact.
Hibs took full advantage of Rangers' profligacy in front of goal when Stokes collected a long ball on his chest before sending a left-footed drive over the head of McGregor and into the back of the net with with 64 minutes gone.
Stokes could have found himself in trouble moments later when he clashed with the Rangers goalkeeper but escaped with a yellow card from referee Charlie Richmond.
Hibs almost snatched victory when Stokes skipped past Weir with ease before setting up substitute Colin Nish but he stabbed wide of the post.