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According to the latest figures, the hosts have less than a 10th of Rangers’ player budget, but money does not account for the doggedness, diligence and sheer bloody-mindedness embodied by Callum Davidson’s side.
Gerrard has tremendous depth in his Rangers squad, and it showed. Seven players who started the Scottish Cup castling of Celtic dropped out and fit-again captain James Tavernier returned for the first time since February. Davidson, by contrast, strengthened his line-up with four front-liners returning.
St Johnstone began at a furious clip. From a cutely-worked corner, Craig steered straight at Jon McLaughlin. Guy Melamed rasped beyond the Rangers goalkeeper, but was flagged offside, then the Israeli striker nodded into McLaughlin’s arms from a dangerous position.
It was a shame to see Melamed, who has scored two goals in his past three matches and who has emerged as pivotal cog in Davidson’s machine, hobbling off injured and visibly distraught.
After this turbulent opening, Rangers began to stir, finding their rhythm and growing into the contest. Simpson ballooned a header onto the roof of the home net. Wright was sent scurrying through on goal by a wonderful, arcing Kemar Roofe pass but out galloped Zander Clark to smother at the feet of the attacker.
The duel was full-blooded, the football less than stellar, but all Rangers needed to pounce was a sliver of opportunity.
Shaun Rooney was beaten to a looping ball in midfield by Steven Davis, and off swooped Rangers. Davis cantered to the edge of the box, slipped to his left, and Wright opened his body to caress a neat shot past Clark.
Two minutes later, chaos erupted. Rooney swivelled, blasted over and hit the deck under pressure from Borna Barisic. He roared for a penalty, but referee Euan Anderson gestured for a goal kick. Then, the official seemed to change his mind, pointing to the spot.
That was gripping enough, but it got more dramatic still when Anderson jogged over to speak to his assistant, and after a brief chat, reverted to his initial decision. No penalty.
St Johnstone, undeterred, continued to push, and push hard. In the end, their resilience was rewarded. In the dying embers, Kane won a header in the Rangers box, and was caught in mid-air by Simpson.