If Steven Gerrard didn’t get much sleep after Rangers’ Scottish Cup flop against Hearts on Saturday, he would have experienced a serious dose of the night terrors after this latest domestic disaster by his team.
The Ibrox side were jeered off the pitch by their incensed fans after David Moyo’s goal handed struggling Hamilton Accies a first win in nine games and lifted them back above Hearts at the foot of the Premiership table.
For Rangers, an evening which would have offered them the chance to cut into Celtic’s lead at the top instead saw them slip further off the pace. They are now 13 points behind the champions as their post-winter break slump in form shows no sign of being arrested.
It was another chastening experience for manager Gerrard who had reaffirmed his long term commitment to the job on Tuesday.
On this evidence, the summer rebuild he suggested may be necessary is far more wide-ranging than perhaps even he believed.
Gerrard had the options in attack to delay Alfredo Morelos’ return to his starting line-up if he wished but the Ibrox manager handed the Colombian striker an instant shot at redemption after his latest disciplinary issue.
While Morelos returned to his familiar central role in Rangers’ front three, Florian Kamberi - who was also absent at Tynecastle as he was cup-tied - was accommodated on the left in place of £7 million winger Ryan Kent who dropped to the bench.
The home side were purposeful from the outset but despite establishing firm control of possession and territory, the breakthrough proved elusive.
There was plenty of neat passing and intelligent movement from Rangers but they faced a tactically diligent Hamilton side who were grimly determined to try and eke out the result which would aid their survival bid.
James Tavernier, among those who failed to cover themselves in glory for Gerrard’s side in the Scottish Cup exit, tried to set the tone as he posted their first effort on goal but the Rangers captain’s shot flew wide of Luke Southwood’s left hand post.
A powerful run from Joe Aribo stretched the Accies’ defence as the Nigerian linked up smartly with Kamberi before seeing a shot well blocked by the recovering Shaun Want.
Ianis Hagi continues to make a positive impression on the Ibrox support and he almost broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion when his overhead kick flew narrowly over after Southwood had punched out a Tavernier corner.
The Romanian international came even closer when he brought a fine through ball from Steven Davis under control with a sublime first touch but saw his shot superbly saved by Southwood.
Accies carried the occasional threat on the counter attack and there was a warning for Rangers when the bustling figure of Marios Ogkmpoe had a shot blocked by Connor Goldson.
Morelos, receiving warm encouragement from the home fans whenever he got involved, was presented with his first sight of goal from a Borna Barisic cross in the 25th minute but guided his header wide of Southwood’s left hand post.
The Accies ‘keeper got down well to his right to clutch a low shot from Kamberi which looked as if it might sneak home as Rangers increased the pressure.
Goldson should have done better with a headed opportunity from a Barisic corner, miscuing badly off target, before Southwood again denied Kamberi with a fine save after the Hibs loanee had been played in by Morelos.
As Rangers’ struggle to find an opener continued, there was a reminder of Accies’ counter-attacking capability when Alex Gogic and Blair Alston combined down the right to set up Ogkmpoe for a shot which sailed just wide of Allan McGregor’s left hand post.
A frantic opening spell of the second half saw Rangers scorn two glorious chances to take the lead before their increasingly angst-ridden fans were left stunned when Moyo put Accies in front.
Two exceptional crosses from Barisic provided the gilt-edged openings for Gerrard’s men. The first was headed against the crossbar from six yards by Morelos, then the Croatian left-back’s next cross was deflected into the path of Tavernier who seemed to stumble before blazing wildly over from inside the six yard box.
Rangers were punished for their wastefulness when they conceded in calamitous fashion in the 56th minute. McGregor appeared to have prevented Accies taking a shock lead when he brilliantly diverted an Ogkmpoe header onto his crossbar. But as Rangers tried to scramble the loose ball clear, Goldson’s hesitancy in possession gifted it to Moyo who slid a low shot beyond McGregor’s left hand into the corner of the net.
Gerrard threw on Kent, Jermain Defoe and then Brandon Barker in a bid to salvage the situation but there was to be no escape from this latest bout of misery for the Ibrox boss. Southwood made a decent save to keep out Morelos, then Hagi saw a shot deflected onto the bar in the closing stages.
As Davis blazed over from close range in stoppage time, news of Celtic’s late equaliser at Livingston simply intensified the fury of the Rangers support while the small pocket of away fans celebrated a precious victory.