10 Dec Rangers 2 – 0 Hearts
Ian Cathro was given a tough introduction to management as his Hearts side went down 2-0 to Rangers on his dugout debut at Ibrox.
The 30-year-old former Valencia and Newcastle coach was taking charge of the Jambos for the first time since being appointed on Monday.
But goals from Rob Kiernan and Barrie McKay either side of the half-time break ensured the dominant Light Blues extended their cushion in second spot to four points, with Hearts now a point behind third-placed Aberdeen.
Cathro resisted the urge to stamp his authority over his new side as he went with the same starting XI as predecessor Robbie Neilson sent out in his final three games.
Gers grabbed their first win over top-six opposition last week with victory over Aberdeen, but that did not stop Mark Warburton tinkering with his team.
James Tavernier – culpable for both of goals in Hearts’ 2-0 Tynecastle win 10 days ago – returned in a midfield role while Danny Wilson came in for suspended centre-back Clint Hill.
The new management team have had just four days with the Hearts players and it looked as if their message had not quite sunk by the time kick-off arrived.
They flirted with danger a couple of times playing out from back and were glad to see Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller pass up decent chances in the opening quarter-hour.
The Jambos soon found their rhythm, though, and thought they had the opener after 17 minutes when Don Cowie bundled into the net after Callum Paterson fired the ball back into the box following a stunning reflex stop by Wes Foderingham.
But, in a mirror image of the incident which cost Rangers a Joe Dodoo goal in Gorgie, the visitors were left frustrated when linesman Stuart Stevenson took time before raising his flag for offside.
The controversial call only added further spice to an already entertaining game. Jamie Walker fired wide soon after before Wallace was denied by a decent block from Jambos goalkeeper Jack Hamilton.
It was Rangers, however, who struck first after 29 minutes. Paterson’s foul on Jason Holt at the corner of the box gave Tavernier the chance to send in a free-kick and his delivery was perfect for for Kiernan, who headed home his first Gers goal.
And they added a crucial second six minutes into the second period.
No matter how innovative Cathro’s methods turn out to be, he will never be able to legislate for both Igor Rossi and Facyal Rherras allowing Wallace’s simple long throw to bounce in the middle of the box and over their heads to McKay, who could not believe his luck as he slammed past the helpless Hamilton.
The Jambos stopper did brilliantly to ensure bad did not become worse after Cathro’s decision to throw on striker Tony Watt and Conor Sammon left his side exposed late on.
A sensational McKay pass sent Martyn Waghorn racing clear, but Hamilton stood up well to block the Gers substitute’s effort.