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Rangers 2-1 Heart of Midlothian

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    Candeias makes it 2-0 for Rangers with a strong header

    Rangers returned to second place in the Premiership thanks to goals from Jason Cummings and Daniel Candeias against Hearts at Ibrox.

    After a drab first half, Cummings fired in the opening goal on 47 minutes, with Candeias adding a flying header.

    Hearts were barely seen as an attacking force before Christophe Berra nodded in from a free kick 19 minutes from time.

    Kyle Lafferty cracked the post soon after but Rangers finished the stronger side, squandering several chances.

    Rangers had lost ground in the race for second, with just one win from their past four outings in the league and the mood was darkened further by last weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final mauling from Celtic.

    Hibs moved level on points on Saturday lunchtime and Aberdeen jumped above them later in the day, so manager Graeme Murty needed a response from the home side against a Hearts side who were obdurate in defence during a forgettable first 45 minutes.

    With a subdued atmosphere inside the stadium, several empty seats and a banner reading: “No fight, no pride. Nowhere to hide. Incompetent on & off the pitch. We deserve better”, it was clear fans were also looking for improvement.

    However, there were only two moments to trouble Hearts before the interval, with goalkeeper Joe McLaughlin swiftly off his line to block from Jamie Murphy and a glancing header from Russell Martin drifting narrowly over the top.

    Cummings, who was making just a third league start since his January loan move from Nottingham Forest, flitted on the fringes in the first half but made made his mark just two minutes after the restart.

    Jason Cummings knocks in the opening goal at Ibrox

    Murphy drilled in a low cross from the left and, with three defenders drawn to Candeias, the Portuguese did well to turn and lay a pass off to Cummings, who had time to slam the ball home from 10 yards.

    The match was suddenly much livelier and Murphy had the crowd on their feet after a mazy run took him past three opponents inside the penalty box only to see his final effort blocked when a pass may have been the better option.

    The winger, on loan from Brighton, made amends by delivering the cross for Candeias to double the hosts’ lead.

    Once again, Hearts were found wanting at the back as the scorer was left all alone to pick his spot with a powerful header from near the penalty spot.

    McLaughlin had to beat away a fierce angled strike from Josh Windass as Rangers pushed for a third but the Edinburgh side changed the complexion of the match with a goal out of the blue when Berra diverted in a Don Cowie free kick.

    Two minutes later, Lafferty was unlucky to see his curling shot from 18 yards thunder against the post as he took aim for the far top corner but Craig Levein’s men could not muster another opportunity to find a leveller.

    Instead, Hearts were making life difficult for themselves with more shaky defending.

    Cummings could not punish a slack pass from Berra, unable to profit from a one-on-one with McLaughlin, while the goalkeeper’s stoppage-time rush from his area led to Michael Smith making a goal-line clearance to deny Rangers substitute Alfredo Morelos.

    Now Murty’s men must summon more of the verve and determination shown in the second half as they prepare to visit a Celtic side looking to wrap up a seventh successive title next Sunday.

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