It was the game that truly signified that Rangers were back at the top table in Scottish football, but for all the hype, it turned out to be a pretty damp squib as they were held to a stuttering 1-1 draw by Hamilton in front of a sold-out Ibrox.
Ali Crawford’s goal on the half-hour mark was cancelled out by by Martyn Waghorn’s superbly-taken equaliser just after the hour in what was a disappointing result for Mark Warburton’s men.
Rangers did start the brighter of the two sides and had the ball in the net after one minute of play. Waghorn turned his man inside out, but the ball had gone over the by-line before he cut it back for Kenny Miller to tap home.
Rangers continued to go at Hamilton – a good move down the right ended with Andy Halliday bringing a very good save out of Matthews.
However, after the early pressure, Hamilton came into the game and had a good spell of possession but even when Rangers threatened to break on them, the play from the home side was too ponderous and they couldn’t get in behind the tight, well-marshalled Accies rear-guard.
And on the half-hour Accies would take advantage of their good spell and took the lead through their talisman Ali Crawford. He managed to turn Niko Kranjcar and Lee Wallace before expertly curling the ball into the top corner past the diving Wes Foderingham.
Rangers would go close from a Martyn Waghorn free-kick, but the Ibrox crowd would still be waiting for their first league goal over half-time as his left-footed effort smacked the outside of the left-hand post.
Rangers came out after the interval and continued to do what they were doing, but still they had no way to break down the Hamilton defence.
That was until Warburton’s double substitution paid dividends. Forrester replaced Kranjcar and O’Halloran replaced Miller. Forrester added a directness, a hunger and a much-needed change of pace and even more so, he got in between the lines and gave the Hamilton midfield and defence something different to think about.
The equaliser came shortly after Barton won two tackles high up the park and Wallace found Forrester and the Englishman produced a magnificent outside-of-the boot pass over the head of the Accies defender where Waghorn was on hand to slide the ball past Matthews.
The momentum swung back into Rangers’ favour and they went close a further twice. Forrester, who was at the heart of everything good when he came off the bench, beat two players inside the box but his fizzing effort went just past the left-hand post. Joey Barton came close as well, but his curled effort from outside the area was smartly saved by Matthews.
The game would then end on a sombre note for Rangers as Martyn Waghorn was taken off holding his hamstring.
Furthermore, the result wasn’t what anyone would have liked and there is plenty to work on, but it’s good to be back in the top flight.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Hill, Kiernan, Wallace; Barton, Halliday (Rossiter 76), Kranjcar (Forrester 61); McKay, Waghorn, Miller (O’Halloran 61).
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