BILEL Mohsni was sent off for the third time this year for attempting to headbutt an opposing player as Rangers rounded off their pre-season campaign with a disappointing defeat by Derby County.
Two well-taken goals in the second half from Scotland internationalist Chris Martin ensured Sky Bet Championship club Derby won the friendly match at Pride Park yesterday comfortably.
However, the game was marred when notoriously temperamental Rangers centre-half Mohsni launched himself at the scorer in 75 minutes after taking exception to a late challenge. The French Tunisian defender's dismissal did not affect the final outcome of a game that was watched by a travelling support that numbered over 10,000, though.
Yet it was the latest in a long line of unfortunate incidents involving the 27-year-old - it was his third red card he had received in the last seven months - and you have to wonder how much longer his manager will tolerate his impetuousness.
With Rangers' first competitive fixture looming on Tuesday, when they take on Hibernian in the Petrofac Training Cup at Ibrox, Ally McCoist fielded the strongest side available to him yesterday. Marius Zaliukas had sustained a slight a groin injury towards the end of the summer tour of Canada and the United States and started on the bench. With Richard Foster also sidelined, Darren McGregor started at right-back, while Lee McCulloch and Mohsni played in the middle of the back line and Lee Wallace was in his usual berth at left-back. Ian Black and Kyle Hutton featured in central midfield, with Fraser Aird on the left and Lewis Macleod on the right. Nicky Law was utilised in an advanced role behind lone striker Kenny Miller.
The strength of the opposition will have influenced McCoist's selection and he will surely not be so cautious in the SPFL Championship.
There were some well-known faces in the Derby line-up; Scots Craig Bryson, Craig Forsyth, Johnny Russell and Martin formed the spine of the home team. Lee Naylor also played at left-back. Surprisingly, the former Celtic player was largely ignored by the visiting fans, although the pre-match huddle by the home team was not.
McGregor nearly gifted Derby an opening goal in the fifth minute with an atrocious attempt at a passback to Cammy Bell which was accepted gratefully by Simon Dawkins. A well-timed tackled by Mohsni, though, averted the danger. It showed what the former Ipswich Town and Southend United player can offer when he keeps his cool.
Rangers should have taken the lead in 14 minutes after some fine work by Law and Miller down the left flank. The latter picked out Aird lurking in space in the six-yard box with a cross only for the winger to head wide of goal.
The League One champions then had a strong penalty claim dismissed by referee Mark Heywood on the half-hour mark after Richard Keogh appeared to handle a cross. But the Ibrox club did not trouble Lee Grant greatly, with Miller an isolated figure.
Steve McLaren's team, however, showed why they had come agonisingly close to winning a place in Barclays Premier League last season. Their passing, pace and movement going forward were impressive.
Dawkins had a powerful shot saved by Bell and a header cleared off the goalline by Mohsni before half-time. The Jamaican striker, though, set up the opening goal after 57 minutes when he cut the ball back for Martin to score.
McCoist threw on Kris Boyd to a rapturous reception from the visiting fans but it was Derby fans who were left celebrating after 72 minutes as Martin scored his second goal. The striker drilled the ball coolly under Bell.
The association between Derby and Rangers goes back to a benefit match staged for Ted McMinn in 2006 after the former winger had part of his leg amputated and a prosthetic limb fitted. McMinn, known fondly as "The Tin Man" due to his unorthodox running style, was the guest of honour yesterday and received a warm reception from both sets of fans before kick-off.