Rangers set up play-off semi-final clash with Hibs

Lee Wallace,  centre, scored the crucial goal to give Rangers an aggregate victory

Lee Wallace, centre, scored the crucial goal to give Rangers an aggregate victory

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Finally, Hibs know who they’ll be facing on Wednesday night in the first of what they hope will be the play-off matches which take them back to the Premiership.

Lee Wallace’s goal ensured that Alan Stubbs’ men will face Rangers in the semi-finals as the Glasgow side secured a 1-1 draw against Queen of the South at Ibrox to take them through 3-2 on aggregate.

Two weeks since a 3-0 victory over Falkirk clinched second place in the Championship, Stubbs and his players have been patiently waiting.

And, after such a length of time, it would have come as no surprise to them that they’d have to wait a little longer, right to the end of this quarter-final tie, all 180 minutes of it, to discover they’ll be heading to Ibrox in midweek.

Derek Lyle, who’d scored Queen of the South’s goal at Palmerston Park, did so again, silencing Ibrox as he headed home a first-half opener to leave the teams level on aggregate only for Wallace to steer home an equaliser and so set up a double-header with Hibs.

The tie could easily have gone to extra time and beyond, Haris Vuckic heading a Lyle effort out from under his own crossbar with only nine minutes left.

The decision of Queens manager James Fowler’s to go with a back three was an open invitation for Rangers full backs Richard Foster and Wallace to seek to exploit the space left on either flank, one which the pair eagerly accepted.

A one-two between the ex-Hearts man and Nicky Law saw Nicky Clark flick wide from a good position while Forster forced Mark Durnan to head over his own bar before Queens skipper Chris Higgins twice came from nowhere to deny former team-mate Clark and then Dean Shiels.

Vuckic, the only one of the five on-loan Newcastle players who controversially arrived in Glasgow in January to have made any impact, was again instrumental in much of the good work from Stuart McCall’s men, forcing Zander Clark into a save at full stretch.

The fact it was one-way traffic with Rangers goalkeeper Cammy Bell being a virtual spectator forced Fowler’s hand, Lewis Kidd deployed at right back to supply cover for the over-run Danny Carmichael, the winger more used to going forward than tracking back. But in virtually their first meaningful foray forward, the visitors outfit stunned Rangers.

Veteran midfielder Lyle found Carmichael in space for the first time and then he made his way into the danger area to meet the resultant cross and power a downward header beyond goalkeeper Bell.

It was the sort of sucker punch that watching Hibs boss Stubbs has known all too often this season and one which stunned the disbelieving home fans into silence.

Goalkeeper Clark ensured Queens went into half-time ahead in the match and level on aggregate, getting down low to his left to touch Vuckic’s free-kick aside and so exposing the Rangers players to a chorus of boos from their own fans as they headed for the tunnel at half-time.

Ibrox had become a nervous, anxious place, music to the ears of Fowler and his players but they could count themselves lucky to still be in the lead when Foster’s cross picked out the head of Kenny Miller, the ball crashing back off Clark from point-blank range with the goalkeeper knowing little about it.

Chris Kelly had a glorious chance to pile the pressure on Rangers when Lyle’s ball over the top allowed him a free run-in on Bell but his first touch was dreadful, the ball coming off his knee and running through to the goalkeeper.

And how Queens were made to pay, Vuckic sending in a cross two minutes later which Law chested down for Wallace to lash home from six yards out.

Fowler rang the changes in a bid to rescue the tie, all three substitutes thrown on in the space of 12 minutes but Queens had Clark to thank for keeping their interest alive, the goalkeeper spreading himself to block Law’s effort after he’d been played in by Vuckic.

Even so the outcome was in the balance, Vuckic earning a grateful hug from Bell after the Slovenian rose at the back post to head away Lyle’s curling effort from under his own crossbar.

Rangers: Bell, Foster, McGregor, Zaliukas, Wallace, Murdoch, Shiels (Smith 85), Law, Vuckic, Wallace, N Clark (Mohsni 85), Miller. Unused subs: Simonsen, Black, Boyd, Crawford, Walsh.

Queen of the South: A Clark, Durnan (Russell 69), Dowie, Higgins, Millar (McKenna 61), Carmichael, Kidd, McShane, Holt, Lyle, Kelly (A Smith 73). Unused subs: Atkinson, Paton, Hooper, Pickard.

Referee: Kevin Clancy.