Cover star on the match programme and the new hero of Ibrox, Jason Cummings, revealed he’d been ordered to join Rangers by his wrestler buddy Grado – “otherwise he would going to put me through a table”.
But the striker couldn’t stop his old club beating his new one. In a tempestuous, turbo-charged clash of ten bookings, Hibernian repeated their feat of earlier in the season with a thrilling win in Govan.
“Jason, Jason, what’s the score?” the Hibs fans sang at the final whistle. Another man on the park, Scott Allan, might have wondered what kind of reception he’d get from that end of the stadium, having declared his ambition in a previous Hibee life to sign for the Ibrox club. But cool and cultured performances like the one he delivered amid the mayhem will surely make the doubters forget about that.
Hibs had some serious reshuffling to do for this one with the regular central defence of Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor posted missing through injury and 18-year-old Ryan Porteous came in for only his fifth appearance.
They looked a little bit light for the contest although you could also argue they looked a big bit adventurous, by not sacrificing the likes of Allan or Brandon Barker to keep the game tight. The match started at an incredible pace – too incredible for Graham Murty and Neil Lennon who made calming gestures in unison. And as it was, Barker only lasted four minutes before he had to be replaced by Jamie Maclaren who should have scored right away, spurning the chance from a Martin Boyle set-up.
Then he did score only to be flagged for offside. A lovely Allan backheel sparked the move, Florian Kamberi delivering to the back post, and the Australian will have rued a badly-timed run.
Then it was Rangers’ turn only for first Josh Windass and then Alfredo Morelos to be foiled by a terrific double-save by Ofir Marciano. Again these were bad misses but the managers had given up on the calls for restraint. These teams were going to have a go at each other until someone scored.
Allan was threatening to become majestic and the game’s dominant character. A delicious spin in the middle of the park and pass with the outside of his electric orange boot set up Kamberbi who squirted a shot wide. That was a difficult chance but with the next one when he was set up by Maclaren the Swiss really should have put Hibs ahead. Nevertheless Kamberi was building on his goalscoring debut and looking vibrant.
The game went strangely quiet. There wasn’t a goalscoring opportunity for a few seconds. Morelos was eventually presented one but a great tackle by young Porteous denied him.
Hibs’ enforced changes, a formation of 3-1-4-2 and the return of Allan to claim the central berth meant John McGinn was pushed out left and, by his standards, he was incredibly quiet. But in the 41st minute he achieved the breakthrough, picking up the ball on halfway and charging forward to unleash a stunning left-shot drive from 25 yards which whistled past Wes Foderingham.
How long before Cummings was unleashed? Daniel Candeias didn’t spend too much time pondering this and right after the restart powered a header from ten yards which Marciano tipped over.
This sparked concerted pressure from Rangers as Declan John drove them forward. Allan was beginning to tire although Porteous was growing in stature. On the hour-mark with Cummings warming up Morelos had the ball in the net but was adjudged offside.
The equaliser came from a free-kick as Sean Goss got his bearings spot on and Marciano was unable to keep out the strike.
Back came Hibs. Allan got to the byline and tried to shepherd the ball out for a corner. Tavernier brought him down and Willie Collum pointed to the spot. Maclaren fired the ball through Foderingham to the delight of the away support. Cummings had a chance but failed to make good contact with his head. Then he was booked for bringing down his old buddy Marvin Bartley.