Maroon Memories: Hamill nets rebound to defeat Rangers at Ibrox
A Jamie Hamill goal helped Hearts to a terrific 2-1 win against Rangers at Ibrox.
Steven Davis gave the reigning champions the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Ian Black levelled the scores with a sensational strike on the hour mark. With ten minutes remaining, the Jambos were awarded a penalty which Allan McGregor initially saved, only for Hamill to fire home the rebound.
Paulo Sergio made considerable changes to his side following the 2-0 defeat by Dundee United last time out. Andy Webster returned from suspension to partner Marius Zaliukas in central defence, prompting Darren Barr to play alongside Black in midfield. There was a starting spot for Gary Glen up front, as Stephen Elliott missed out due to family reasons. Adrian Mrowiec and Andy Driver also returned to the team, at the expense of Rudi Skacel and Mehdi Taouil.
Rangers, backed by a near sell-out crowd, set about attacking from the start but it was the visitors who registered the first chance as Driver unleashed a volley from just outside the box which sailed over McGregor’s crossbar.
Rhys McCabe then put Jamie MacDonald to the test with a similar effort on 15 minutes, but chances were few and far between during a largely uneventful opening half hour.
The home side were producing the majority of attacking play, but were guilty of resorting to long balls in the final third which the maroon defence sniffed out. Hearts, on the rare occasion in which they ventured forward, suffered from a similar lack of precision against a well-organised home defence.
Rangers produced their best move of the half shortly before the interval as Salim Kerkar broke free on the left before finding Sone Aluko six yards out, but his shot was pushed away by MacDonald just as it looked to find the bottom left corner.
It was a sign of things to come, however, as the home side took the lead on 45 minutes. Andrew Little cut into the box from the right and fed the ball to Steven Davis, who swept a low effort in the bottom right corner.
The goal prompted Sergio to make a half-time alteration; Barr made way for debutant Craig Beattie as the Jam Tarts looked to boost their attacking options.
The Gers continued where they left off and came within inches of doubling their lead when Carlos Bocanegra flashed a header wide from a McCabe free-kick.
Hearts soon began to impose themselves, however, as Andrew Driver’s cross from the left found Scott Robinson on the back post, but his header back across goal was blocked on the line by Bocanegra. His clearance, however, landed at the feet of Black just outside the penalty area. The playmaker took a touch before curling a delightful ball over the outstretched McGregor into the top left corner to send the travelling fans into delirium.
Rangers continued to push forward and MacDonald pulled off a great save after Little raced down the right channel and fired a shot across goal.
The striker was soon on hand again as he beat the offside trap to find himself one-on-one with MacDonald, but the keeper bravely got down to scramble the ball away from his feet before Zaliukas cleared it to safety.
With Rangers attacking frequently, Hearts broke up play and won a corner in the 78th minute. Danny Grainger swung it in from the right but Doran Goian was deemed to have been heavy handed with Webster, and so referee Crawford Allan duly pointed to the spot.
Hamill stepped up only to see his effort stopped by McGregor, but the keeper could do little to prevent him from firing home the rebound to give the Edinburgh side the lead with just over ten minutes remaining.
Rangers, still incensed by the penalty decision, pushed forward in numbers but failed to penetrate a highly resilient maroon defence. Hamill and Zaliukas were particularly effective in stifling Salim Kerkar and Lee McCulloch respectively, much to the frustration of the home support.
Despite the home side’s best efforts, they were unable to cause Hearts sufficient trouble, enabling the Jambos to comfortably see out the remaining minutes to secure a hugely impressive victory at Ibrox.
The three points put an end to a winless streak of five games, which bode well ahead of the Scottish Cup quarter-final tie against St Mirren at Tynecastle the following weekend.
Rangers: McGregor; Perry, Goian, Bocanegra, Wallace; Aluko (Celic 65), McCabe, Davis, Kerkar; McCulloch, Little. Subs not used: Alexander, Healy, Bedoya, Wylde, Hemmings, Mitchell.
Hearts: MacDonald; Hamill, Zaliukas, Webster, Grainger; Black (Taouil 73), Barr (Beattie 45), Mrowiec, Robinson, Driver; Glen (McGowan 84). Subs not used: Ridgers, Skacel, Morton, Holt.
Referee: Crawford Allan.