Neil Alexander looked mortified as he left the field, having fumbled the ball into his own net in the 88th minute and so feeling the full responsibility for the first points Rangers have dropped at home this season. Joe Malin, the Elgin goalkeeper, did not even have the opportunity to express his sympathy, since he was off celebrating with his team-mates in front of the small group of away supporters who had made the journey south.
Alexander was not wholly at fault; the casual play and waywardness of the rest of the Rangers players was to blame for the home side not converting dominance into a win. After the opening goal, they missed the few chances they created, and spent most of the game passing the ball across the field and not finding the penetration to break down Elgin, even though the visitors were reduced to 10 men late in the first half with the dismissal of Paul Harkins for a raised-foot challenge on Ian Black.
Malin had only two stops of note to make, dealing comfortably with a weak Lee McCulloch effort just before half-time, then smartly saving a later, close-range Andy Little header. He was composed throughout, though. He left Ross County last month and he has still to even find a job to do alongside playing part-time for Elgin, but the move seemed worth it to be involved in such a memorable occasion.
"There were quite a few big results at Ross County," Malin said. "I was on the bench at Hampden for the semi-final and final against Celtic and Dundee United. But nothing compares with this for me, being in the thick of the action and deserving a result like this. We worked really hard for it. So it's much more pleasing actually being part of the team. You always think [your chance of playing at a high level has gone when you leave a club such as Ross County] but you just need to keep believing in yourself. Hopefully I can do well for Elgin and if that propels me any higher then I'll take it."
Elgin deserved their point for persevering, and refusing to capitulate. Even so, Rangers will regret their lacklustre display, particularly as they dominated possession. Lewis MacLeod impressed on occasion in the first half, and took his goal with composure, but tired on his comeback from illness. This time out wide, David Templeton was less prominent than of late and MacLeod was playing in behind the striker, McCulloch, but Rangers could not create enough chances to overwhelm the visitors.
The home fans booed their team at the end, but made an exception for Alexander, applauding as he trudged off. His mistake was critical – Jamie Duff managed to divert a Stuart Leslie header from close range, but Alexander parried the ball before turning it into his net – but the team was more at fault for failing to kill off the game. The Ibrox support also clapped the Elgin players from the pitch, and the mood was of frustration rather than anger, since these were the first league points dropped since October. Nonetheless, any notion of Rangers taking their journey to the title for granted was also discarded, because displays similar to this will lead to further setbacks.
"We should have had it wrapped up and we only have ourselves to blame," Little said. "We should have taken our chances. I don't think there is a problem with motivation. We just let our tempo drop. We had a lot of the ball but didn't create much. Hopefully it is a lesson learned. Neil has been excellent this season and it would be unfair to put the blame on him."