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SPL Midweek Roundup: Rangers march on towards title as Accies relegated

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League leaders moved closer to retaining their SPL crown for a third year in a row with a 2-0 win over Dundee United on Tuesday night. Goals from Nikica Jelavic and Kyle Lafferty sealed all three points for the Ibrox side, in what was manager Walter Smith’s last game at Ibrox as Rangers manager. They can now wrap up the title by beating Kilmarnock on the last match of the season away at Rugby Park on Sunday. Meanwhile Celtic’s 3-0 win over Hearts was overshadowed by manager Neil Lennon being attacked on the touchline by a Hearts fan. And Hamilton Accies lost 1-0 to St.Johnstone on Tuesday night, which confirmed their relegation from the SPL.

Rangers 2-0 Dundee United

Rangers started the match with a dedicated goal in mind, secure all three points and to give Walter Smith a win in his last game at Ibrox.

Dundee United’s Keith Watson was the first to threaten with a long-range shot that went just over the crossbar, but it wasn’t long before Rangers went on the attack.

Rangers had a glorious chance to open the scoring when Steven Naismith looked set to finish off a great move when played into the penalty box after a number of one-two’s, however Kyle Lafferty nicked the ball off Naismith and sent his shot wide of the United goal.

And they missed another good chance when Maurice Edu sent a cross to the unmarked Nikica Jelavic, but the striker could only head wide from 14 yards out.

United failed to deliver any attacking football and had to withstand an onslaught of Rangers attacks, with Lafferty going close once more for Rangers when he curled a shot off the inside of the post from the edge of the penalty box. And Jelavic squandered another chance to score when he collected the ball from Steven Davis, but could only fire over the bar.

But Rangers inevitably broke the deadlock when Garry Kenneth was found in no man’s land as Jelavic rose between two United defenders, unmarked to head home the opening goal.

Rangers were not finished there and they hunted for the second, and it was duly delivered soon after. Steven Naismith teed up Kyle Lafferty who hit a low shot into the corner of the goal to give Rangers a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Into the second half and Lafferty failed to score after a cross from Jelavic which flew across the face of the United goal.

United finally got into the game. Allan McGregor failed to collect a cross at the back post and Steven Davis conceded a corner. From the resulting set piece, Scott Robertson headed towards the Rangers goal but McGregor saved comfortably.

Despite Jelavic putting a free kick just over the United cross-bar, it was the Tannadice side who looked the more likely team to score the next goal in the closing stages. Allan McGregor saved a dipping Daly strike as the striker tried to capitalise on a defensive slip by Madjid Bougherra and substitute Armstrong hit the upright.

But the night was Rangers’ as they secured all three points, and with that the tributes started for manager Walter Smith in his final game at Ibrox as Rangers manager. If Rangers beat Kilmarnock on Sunday then they will secure their third title in a row and their 10th SPL title under manager Walter Smith.

Aberdeen 0-1 St.Mirren

St.Mirren secured SPL football next season with a 1-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Gareth Wardlaw’s solitary strike after the hour mark secured top flight football next season for Danny Lennon’s side, with one game remaining.

St. Johnstone 1-0 Hamilton Accies

Hamilton saw their faint hopes of staving off relegation disintegrate as St.Johnstone ran out 1-0 winners at McDiarmid Park. Hamilton continued their late fight back with a good start in Perth, but that any hope of securing all three points disappeared when Mark McLaughlin was sent off for bringing down Andy Jackson in the box.

From the resulting spot kick, Liam Craig despatched it into the Accies goal. Saints were awarded a second penalty later in the game, however Tomas Cerny saved Craig’s attempt, but they could not find anyway through the Saints defence and their relegation was confirmed by St.Mirren’s 1-0 over Aberdeen.

Inverness Caley Thistle 2-0 Hibernian

Inverness beat Hibernian 2-0 in their league clash at the Caledonian stadium. Richie Foran opened the scoring on 40 minutes when he headed home from six yards out, and off the post.

And a superb volley by Nick Ross from the edge of the area on 51 minutes secured all three points for Terry Butcher’s side.

Motherwell 1-1 Kilmarnock

Steve Jones gave Motherwell the lead after 8 minutes frm 20 yards out. But a Willy Aubameyang equaliser gave Killie a share of the spoils at Fir Park to secure fifth place in the SPL.

Hearts 0-3 Celtic

Celtic kept their faint titles hopes alive with a superb 3-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle. Gary Hooper scored a double and Kris Commons rounded off the match with a superb strike from 16 yards out.

Hearts’ David Obua was sent off in the first half, after hitting out at Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew. In the second half Kris Commons was booked for an alleged dive and was shown his second yellow card and subsequent red card after celebrating his goal by leaving the field of play and into the fans.

However the game was overshadowed by the actions of one crazed Hearts fan who jumped the barrier in the Main Stand and managing, with relative ease, get to Neil Lennon in the Celtic dugout and attacked him. The so-called Football fan was subdued by Police and Stewards, before being handcuffed and dragged down the tunnel.

Celtic’s win now means they go into the final match of the season looking for a win against Motherwell at Celtic Park and hope that Kilmarnock can either beat or hold Rangers to a draw at Rugby Park. However odds are on Rangers to lift their third successive SPL title.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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