RANGERS trudged out of Forthbank without a win for the second time this season as Stirling cost them another two points.
Scorers: Stirling Forsyth (51); Rangers: Little (16)
The ground is the only Irn-Bru Third Division venue at which the Glasgow giants have failed to emerge victorious this season after their first visit in October ended in a shock 1-0 defeat.
They have notched up nine successive away wins since that game but this performance showcased many of the team’s frustrating frailties as Andy Little’s 22nd goal of the season was allowed to be cancelled out by Ross Forsyth’s 51st-minute equaliser.
The league leaders started the game a massive 37 points ahead of the second-bottom Binos and should have had enough to maintain their 22-point lead at the top, which has now been trimmed by two after Queen’s Park’s win over Clyde.
There was the small mercy for the Ibrox club in that their under-fire support remained largely muted following Saturday’s controversial rendition of several sectarian anthems at Berwick. The club look set to escape Scottish Football Association punishment for those outbursts but chief executive Charles Green will hope to avoid any embarrassing repeats as he strives to rebuild the club’s international reputation.
A turgid second-half display and a chronic inability to defend crosses into the box cost Ally McCoist’s men the victory this time, yet Rangers had looked hungry in the opening exchanges.
It was an intricate link-up between Dean Shiels and Little that sent the Northern Irishman through first time round but an offside flag was raised by linesman Graham McNeillie just as he put his shot wide of goalkeeper David Crawford’s goal.
While Stirling caused visiting hearts to flutter after 14 minutes as striker Jordan White beat Emilson Cribari to Kieran McAnespie’s free-kick only to head over, the two Rangers frontmen linked up again moments later and this time their timing was perfect.
Shiels collected a ball from midfield and was able to turn and face up to the Binos back four before slotting a finely-weighted pass in behind for Little to gallop onto.
With one touch to round the on-rushing Crawford, he took another to set himself before rolling the ball into the empty Stirling net.
The home side were nothing but plucky though and, not for the first time this year, Rangers’ weaknesses at cross-ball situations were exposed as Allison – the man who consigned the fallen Glasgow giants to their only league defeat of the season back in October – was found by another McAnespie set-piece.
He failed to repeat his heroics, however, as he headed wide of Neil Alexander’s left-hand post.
Having had a couple of warnings in the first half, Rangers once again failed to learn their lesson as McAnespie swung another fantastic delivery into the box six minutes after the interval. Full-back Anestis Argyriou had been penalised for a shove on Phil Johnstone and with the free-kick, the former Hearts and St Johnstone midfielder picked out Forsyth to bullet home the equaliser.
There was another scare for the Rangers support as McAnespie had a late free-kick pushed away by Alexander, while Little could have made himself a real hero had he done better than send a volley straight at Crawford at the death.