28 Dec St Johnstone 1-1 Rangers
Rangers lost further ground to Celtic ahead of Saturday’s Old Firm showdown as they were held to a 1-1 draw by St Johnstone in Perth.
The Ibrox men were looking to pick up a confidence-boosting fifth straight win ahead of hosting Brendan Rodgers’ runaway leaders on Hogmanay.
But they now trail the Hoops by 16 points having played a game more after a frustrating evening up against Tommy Wright’s team, who stay in fifth.
Barrie McKay fired Gers ahead midway through the first half but Fulham-target Rob Kiernan – this week linked with a £2million move to Craven Cottage – gifted Steven MacLean the equaliser soon after.
Kiernan was lucky his night did not end early after he appeared to lash out at Steven Anderson as tempers flared before the break.
With skipper Lee Wallace out injured, Warburton made a rare departure from his favoured 4-3-3 system as Danny Wilson was recalled to form a back-three alongside Kiernan and Clint Hill.
Wright made three changes to his line-up, including the return of MacLean after the former Ibrox trainee sat out Friday night’s win on Kilmarnock’s astroturf.
Warburton had failed to register a win in his two previous encounters with Saints but the early signs were good.
Josh Windass slalomed his way into shooting territory before shooting wide, while only a stunning reflex stop from Zander Clark kept out Kenny Miller.
James Tavernier slammed the ball against the face of the crossbar, with the ball bouncing clear as a relieved-looking Clark stood motionless.
But Rangers continued to knock at the door and got the goal they deserved after 23 minutes.
McKay teed up Joe Garner but did not hang about as the frontman fired the ball towards Clark, racing into the box to pounce on a spilled ball the keeper really should have gathered.
The 21-year-old still had work to do but refused to blink as he cut inside Joe Shaughnessy before firing home the opener.
It was starting to look like it may be a tough night for Saints, with Gers ready to move up the gears.
But then came Kiernan’s blunder on 28 minutes which allowed the hosts to level up.
The defender was in no danger as he sent a horrendously undercooked back-pass towards Wes Foderingham. MacLean had to stretch to control it but the striker was up quickly to fire home the equaliser.
In an instant Rangers’ early momentum had been stubbed out and although they tried to regain control, the spark was gone.
McKay had a chance to fire his side back in front soon after, but this time Clark wisely chose to push away the wideman’s attempt. Windass had a couple of attempts go close early in the second period before injury to Hill saw Rangers revert to their usual shape as Martyn Waghorn was introduced.
The striker’s first attempt on the turn skidded wide while his next in stoppage time flew wide as Gers had to settle for a point.