Emerson Hyndman spared 10-man Rangers’ blushes when he scored a last minute winner to secure a 3-2 win at Ibrox over St. Johnstone.
Graeme Murty made two changes to the side who fell to a last-minute winner at Inverness on Friday with Clint Hill and Jason Holt replacing Danny Wilson and Andy Halliday as Rangers looked to close the gap on second-placed Aberdeen after their defeat at the hands of Hamilton.
Jon Toral was almost both saint and sinner as in the space of five minutes he went close to gifting St. Johnstone an opener before missing a golden opportunity to score for Rangers. The Spaniard’s pass deep in Rangers half was picked off by Stevie MacLean but the striker couldn’t get his shot on target to spare the Arsenal loanee’s blushes. Minutes later he should have scored at the other end when Tavernier picked him out with a free-kick and, despite being completely unchallenged, put his header just wide of the post.
Murty’s side kept the pressure up on their visitors and Barrie McKay broke the deadlock after 22 minutes. Emerson Hyndman’s driving run caused panic in the Saints’ defence before they half-cleared the ball only for it to fall to McKay who took a touch before firing low beyond Clark.
St. Johnstone almost immediately levelled through Blair Alston, and half the ground thought he had, when his long-range effort went just wide of the outstretched Foderingham’s post.
Martyn Waghorn went closest to doubling Rangers’ advantage before the break when Jason Holt found him with an exquisite pass that put the Saints’ defence under real pressure. The ex-Wigan man’s running caused confusion in the defence but Clark stood up well to his shot to deny him.
Clark was called into action again just before the break when Jason Holt’s thunderbolt was destined for the top corner before Clark managed to get a fingertip on it and send it away from goal. Holt’s effort looked absolutely nailed-on to make it 2-0 but Clark’s save was every bit as good.
Within minutes of the restart St. Johnstone should have levelled when Liam Craig had a free header in the six yard box but somehow managed to head wide. Watson’s cross found the ex-Hibs midfielder in acres of space but Foderingham will have been relieved to see it go wide.
This immediately kick-started Rangers who scored through Martyn Waghorn. Kenny Miller’s cross from the right was perfect and last season’s top scorer headed into the far corner to put double the Gers’ lead.
Waghorn should have won a penalty just minutes later when Craig brought him down just inside the box but Kevin Clancy inexplicably waved it away when it was a clear foul. Clancy had handled the game well up to this point but the decision not to award a penalty was the wrong one.
The second goal took the wind out of St Johnstone and Tommy Wright’s side started to look tired as Rangers continued to spray passes around and look for an opportunity to exploit and grab a third goal.
Joe Garner should have killed the games when Emerson Hyndman found him ust a yard or two out but he managed to hit the outside of the post.
David Wotherspoon grabbed a lifeline for the Perth side with 16 minutes left when he fired high into the net after brushing off a challenge from Jon Toral.
The goal gave St. Johnstone a new lease of life and they must have thought it was Christmas a few minutes later when Rob Kiernan was sent off after a late tackle on Cummins on the halfway line. A straight red card was, maybe, a bit harsh but Kiernan should never have given the referee a decision to make.
St Johnstone got themselves on level terms with three minutes left when Anderson fired home a rebound from a corner to silence Ibrox.
There was more late drama to come in the 92nd minute as Emerson Hyndman controlled a cross on his chest before firing low beyond Clark to score his third Rangers goal and put the cap on a fine performance by the American.
Rangers: Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan, Hill, Wallace, Holt, Hyndman, Toral (Halliday 82’), Waghorn (Wilson 78’), McKay, Miller (Garner 65’)
Subs: Alnwick, Hodson, O’Halloran, Forrester
Goals: McKay 22’, Waghorn 49’, Hyndman 90+’
St. Johnstone: Clark, Watson (Coulson 81’), Shaughessy, Anderson, Easton, Foster, Alston (Cummins66’), Paton, Craig, Swanson )Wotherspoon 69’), MacLean
Subs: Mannus, Scobbie, Smith, Thomson,
Goals: Wotherspoon 74’