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Rangers 3 Stenhousemuir 3: Former whipping boys make point amid a drama of errors

Flaws made this match an engrossing occasion.

Stenhousemuir's Sean Higgins heads his second goal past Cammy Bell Photograph: SNS
Stenhousemuir's Sean Higgins heads his second goal past Cammy Bell Photograph: SNS

Even referee Greg Aitken contributed to the game's hectic nature, with a series of decisions that riled both teams. Missed chances, missed clearances, deflections, misjudgments: this was an accumulation of wayward moments that delivered a harum-scarum encounter.

The home fans applauded the Stenhousemuir players off the pitch, and the appreciation was deserved. Elements of their play were tidy and composed, and their industry was relentless, with lone striker Sean Higgins, who scored a double, proving a handful for Rangers' defenders. Some of the anxiety he caused was self-inflicted, though, since Emilson Cribari turned in an awkward, cumbersome display, and even Lee McCulloch seemed out of sorts.

If there were symbolic events for Rangers, it was David Templeton missing an open goal from five yards and a pass out of defence from Emilson striking Nicky Law on the backside.

Conceding two goals from crosses because Lee Wallace and Templeton failed to close opponents down also irked Ally McCoist, who watched his side drop two points for only the second time this season. For context, Stenhousemuir had not won in their previous seven games. "We're getting caught out of position when we search for goals at Ibrox," McCoist said. "The first two goals were disappointing."

Sean Dickson scored the first, taking a touch before clipping the ball beyond Cammy Bell. Nicky Law equalised, then Higgins restored the visitors' lead with a second-half header.

Goals from Fraser Aird and Jon Daly had Rangers ahead before Higgins struck from the spot with 15 minutes to go after Emilson was penalised for tugging David Rowson's shirt.

Referee Aitken was adamant the latter deserved a penalty, in the same way he was certain Templeton dived in the first half when tackled by Sean Lynch, although it appeared to be a foul. McCoist agreed with neither decision. "I'd rather not say," the Rangers manager replied when asked about Aitken's handling of the game. "I thought the referee got both penalty decisions wrong.

"Templeton's one was just madness, especially the fact he was also booked for diving. I've seen the [Emilson] incident again and he's one of very few referees who would give that award."

Tension built at Ibrox, mostly out of concern. Rangers ought to have been motivated by the circumstances, but their display lacked conviction, in part because the defence was so uncertain.

No player excelled, although Ian Black produced some sure touches on the ball and at least attempted to shake some dynamism into the performance.

There was some aplomb to the home side's first equaliser, with Templeton cushioning a lay-off into Law's path from Andy Little's cross, and Law then curling a shot beyond Stenhousemuir goalkeeper Chris Smith.

Rangers' second equaliser came when Aird's shot from distance deflected off Stenhousemuir defender Stewart Greacen and past Smith. It was the Ibrox side's 100th goal of the season, but there was no mood to celebrate it when the game was still to be chased.

Four minutes later, Jon Daly steered a header into the bottom corner of the net from Aird's corner kick, and Rangers felt in command. Their confidence was misplaced, because calamity was never far from the reach of the home side's defenders.

"It was sloppy from us," said Law. "It was three crosses into our box and three goals. It was a needless penalty to give away when we had just managed to get ourselves back in the lead. It's just not good enough. We should be wiping the floor with teams at home."

For a team that lost 8-0 at Ibrox earlier in the season, and are being managed by a group of coaches until Scott Booth takes charge next month, the display and the result felt like a form of vindication.

"There was massive [motivation from the 8-0 loss]," said one of the group, Brown Ferguson. "It's been lingering, that game, and we managed to show people we can compete."

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