PREDICTIONS the one-sided win over Celtic that Rangers strolled to at Ibrox last December would lead to the balance of power in Scottish football finally shifting proved wildly inaccurate.

Their traditional rivals beat them to the Ladbrokes Premiership by no fewer than nine points come May.

The triumph that Steven Gerrard’s side recorded against Neil Lennon’s team at home in April, the week after their opponents had wrapped up their eighth consecutive title, hasn’t exactly helped them to supplant their near neighbours as the dominant force in the country either.

They lost the first Glasgow derby of the season at their own ground back in September and were beaten in the Betfred Cup final at Hampden earlier this month.

Yet, a rare victory at Parkhead this Sunday will be momentous for the Govan club and give them a definite edge in what is the closest top flight campaign in nine years entering the second half of the 2019/20 season.

READ MORE: Steven Gerrard's men romp to convincing win as tempers flare in the capital

It could, provided they overcome managerless Kilmarnock at Ibrox on Boxing Day and the leaders do the same against struggling St Mirren in Paisley, move them to within two points of top spot with a game in hand, against St Johnstone at home.

They would then be a strong position entering a run of fixtures that will see them play 10 league games at home and just five away before the top six split in April and would be quietly confident of finally ending Celtic’s unprecedented spell of success.

The treble treble winners, who have been held to a draw by Hibernian at Easter Road and suffered a defeat to Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena in the first half of this term, will, in stark contrast, have just six at home and eight away before the split.

Of course, picking up three points in the East End on Sunday will be far from straightforward for Rangers. The last time they did so was way back in October 2010 when a Glenn Loovens own goal and a Kenny Miller double saw them run out comfortable 3-1 victors.

Their subsequent financial implosion, tumble down the divisions and ongoing financial difficulties have had much to do with their failure to register a win at Celtic Park since. But their record before that wasn’t very impressive either. They prevailed on just three occasions in their previous 23 visits.

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A home triumph this weekend, too, could potentially send Lennon’s men, whose win over Aberdeen on Saturday stretched their winning run in the Premiership to 10 games, eight points clear, albeit having played a match more, entering the shutdown. It would take an uncharacteristic collapse of huge proportions for them to blow it from there.

However, having home games, as we saw last season, does make a definite difference. Rangers drew level with Celtic, who had played one match less, on points thanks to their 1-0 victory this time last year.

When play resumed in January, though, they promptly lost to Kilmarnock away. More dropped points against St Johnstone, Hibs and Kilmarnock again followed. Celtic, despite Brendan Rodgers departing in February, won eight on the spin, five of which were on their own turf.

Gerrard raised the fact that his charges have more home games than away coming up in the New Year at his pre-match press conference before the Hibs game last Thursday.

The prospect, after just one Premiership game at Ibrox in their last six, clearly appeals to him greatly.


Few clubs in Scotland have been as proactive as Hibernian when it comes to tackling crowd disorder in recent seasons.

They installed a new CCTV system at Easter Road at a cost of £100,000 and even employed the use of sniffer dogs after concerning incidents at matches against Rangers and Celtic in Leith last season.

But the measures they introduced to weed out the troublemakers didn’t prevent the Ibrox club’s players being pelted with missiles, including glass bottles, after Jermain Defoe scored in the Ladbrokes Premiership match in the capital on Friday night.

READ MORE: Hibernian vow to study CCTV footage and punish yobs who pelted Rangers players with missiles

The sight of a glass vodka bottle landing just yards away from Borna Barisic as he lay on the turf writhing in agony after being fouled by Ryan Porteous was horrific. What damage would it have done if it had hit him? Ally McCoist wasn’t exagerrating when he said on BT Sport that the Croatian could have suffered brain damage.

It is hard not to feel sympathy with Hibs given how much they have done to address unrest. The scheduling of the Rangers fixture on the Friday night before Christmas did nothing to aid their cause.

Club officials vowed to identify the culprits immediately after the final whistle and hefty bans, not to mention criminal charges, are sure to be forthcoming.

But chief executive Leeann Dempster should seriously consider closing a section of the East Stand - something she refused to rule out after James Tavernier was accosted by a pitch invader back in March - to send a clear message to the hooligans.

Ann Budge, the Hearts owner, took the brave decision to shut off sections of Tynecastle in the Gorgie club’s final two home games last season after some shocking scenes in an Edinburgh derby there and feels that has led to a definite improvement in fan behaviour. Hibs would be well advised to follow that lead.