Classic Match: Rangers 0, Hearts 3, Jan 20, 1996

IBROX, so often the scene of a recurring nightmare in preceding years, became a field of dreams for Hearts as they ripped Rangers apart to record a truly memorable Premier Division win.

Not since April 1988 had the Jambos managed to beat Rangers on their home patch, but all that changed thanks to a performance which went down in Tynecastle folklore.

Hearts were brilliant from start to finish, taking the game to the champions from the opening whistle. Rangers didn't know what had hit them.

So, what was the recipe for this stunning success?

Well, for one there was an early goal, which not only gave Hearts the belief they could go on and win the game but also piled the pressure on Rangers as their fans grew restless.

When the sides met at Ibrox earlier in the season, Rangers scored early and, as Hearts found to their cost, it's an uphill struggle for a visiting team if that happens. This time, however, the boys in blue were never allowed to find their rhythm, though it might have been a different story if Brian Laudrup had beaten Gilles Rousset after a neat one-two with Gordon Durie sliced open the Hearts defence on the half-hour mark. The keeper spread himself superbly to block with his legs. If that and the early goal proved crucial, then equally important were the tactics employed by Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown and, of course, the clinical finishing of young Allan Johnston.

Jefferies and Brown, who masterminded Falkirk's Coca-Cola Cup win at Ibrox the season before, were determined to have a go at Rangers and their game-plan worked a treat as every player did exactly what he was asked.

Johnston, was taken off his beat wide on the right, tucking into the middle to create space for Alan Lawrence to exploit in behind David Robertson. Pasquale Bruno did an equally effective job in his role in front of the back three, preventing Charlie Miller, Ian Durrant and Ian Ferguson from supplying the in-form Durie. On the few occasions Durie did get a sniff of goal he was closed down by Alan McManus, who was outstanding alongside Paul Ritchie and Dave McPherson.

McPherson was starting his first game since returning from a long injury lay-off. But he was immense, winning tackles and headers all afternoon, and playing a huge part in making it a frustrating 90 minutes for his former team-mates.

And words can barely do Johnston justice. The young midfielder's run to the near post to get on the end of a John Colquhoun cross for the opener caught Robertson napping, while he showed remarkable composure to beat Andy Goram on two more occasions in the second-half.

Neil Pointon, who, along with Steve Fulton, delivered precise passes to his team-mates throughout, was the creator on both occasions, but Johnston still had a lot of work to do each time. His second was a deft lob which would have graced any stage and he followed that by coolly side-stepping Goram to complete his hat-trick with seven minutes remaining.

Okay, Rangers were without the influential Paul Gascoigne and goalscorer supreme Ally McCoist. But the Ibrox side were not exactly hard-up when it comes to replacing such players and that's one of the reasons why the result was so pleasing from a Hearts point of view.

Another is the fact that Walter Smith's side had gone 19 games unbeaten in the league. Add the fact that Goram had gone eight league games without conceding a goal and it was no surprise that there were joyous scenes among Hearts' players and fans at the final whistle.