| Rangers returned to second place in the Scottish Premiership with today's 2-1 win over Hearts at Ibrox. Rangers were forced into a week of soul-searching following last weekend's humiliating 4-0 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Celtic. But goals from Jason Cummings and Daniel Candeias will have restored some small sliver of belief ahead of next weekend's league trip to Parkhead, where Rangers will be faced with seeing their bitter rivals lift the title unless they can somehow turn around their miserable derby record. Hearts had arrived in Glasgow hoping to take advantage of their hosts' fragile state of mind following that Hampden letdown but while they did pull a goal back through Christophe Berra, it was a more comfortable afternoon for Rangers than they could possibly have expected.
Club captain Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller were nowhere to be seen having been suspended by the club in the wake of a post-game bust-up after the defeat to Celtic. Manager Graeme Murty - given a lukewarm reception as his name was read out before kick-off - made four changes to the team which faced Celtic as Jak Alnwick, Jason Holt, Josh Windass and Cummings came in for Wes Foderingham, Andy Halliday, Greg Docherty and Alfredo Morelos. The Ibrox faithful spelt out their anger before kick-off as they unveiled a banner saying: "No fight, no pride. Nowhere to hide. Incompetent on & off the pitch. We deserve better."
Yet there was a quiet, almost eerie, atmosphere around the ground as a sense of apathy set in. Hearts had Steven Naismith in their side as he made his first return to Ibrox since his controversial exit back in 2012 - but the home support could barely be bothered booing him for the most part. Jamie Murphy should have raised the noise levels on 21 minutes though as he was handed the game's first proper opening. Windass drove forward from halfway before sliding in Murphy - but the on-loan Brighton winger's touch was a tad heavy, allowing Jon McLaughlin to cut the angle before spreading himself to divert Murphy's shot.
But the home support were finally given something to shout about two minutes after half-time. Murphy drove down the left before cutting the ball back for Windass, who then laid off for on-loan Nottingham Forest frontman Cummings to tuck home his sixth goal since arriving in January. Candeias gave his side breathing space on 64 minutes as he finished off from Murphy's cross with a stunning diving header. The Portuguese wide man even put on a show of unity with his celebration as he darted to the bench to embrace Halliday, the midfielder left red-faced when he was taken off four minutes before half-time last week. Yet Murty's men were not able to relax just yet as Berra pulled one back, flicking a Don Cowie free-kick home with his head on 71 minutes. Hearts could have been level moments later as Kyle Lafferty clipped the post but while the home side also spurned a series of late chances they held on to regain second place from Aberdeen.
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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