Rangers will lodge an appeal against Andy Halliday’s controversial dismissal in their dramatic 4-2 win over Hibs at Ibrox which lifted them three points clear of their title rivals at the top of the Scottish Championship.
Midfielder Halliday was shown a straight red card by referee Bobby Madden in the 70th minute of a pulsating contest at Ibrox when he reacted angrily to a foul by Fraser Fyvie.
I need to be careful with what I say. We will go through the processMark Warburton
Halliday aimed a kick at Fyvie before lunging towards him with his shoulder, prompting the Hibs player to grab his face as he fell backwards right in front of Madden.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton, who believes his team’s performance provided the perfect response to doubts raised by their form in recent weeks, confirmed he will seek to have Halliday’s automatic suspension overturned.
“I have just seen it again and I need to be careful with what I say,” said Warburton. “We will go through the process, absolutely. The right thing to do is go through the appropriate channels, which we will do. Having seen it again, our decision is very clear.”
Fyvie, however, insisted that Halliday could have no complaints about the sending-off and dismissed claims his own reaction contributed to Madden’s decision.
“He kicks out at me to start with and then he leans in,” said Fyvie. “Bobby decided to send him off because obviously he’s acted aggressively towards me. I would say the referee had no choice. I barely touched him and he reacted poorly.”
Hibs manager Alan Stubbs admitted Fyvie may have exaggerated his response to Halliday’s retaliation but felt the Rangers player only had himself to blame.
“Why did Andy put himself in that position?,” said Stubbs. “People will say Fraser has done this and, yes, he probably could have reacted better. But why did Andy lead with his shoulder? I thought Bobby Madden was very good today and if you look at the replay, you can see why he made the decision.”
Rangers were 3-1 ahead, having recovered from going behind to a Jason Cummings goal, when Halliday was sent off. The ten men appeared in danger of dropping a point when Dominique Malonga pulled a goal back for Hibs but they ensured Stubbs’ side fell to a first defeat since August when Martyn Waghorn made it 4-2.
Aside from his unhappiness at Halliday’s red card – Rangers’ first of the season – it was a hugely satisfying afternoon for Warburton following a spell in which his team dropped ten points in their previous six league games.
“The performance was very pleasing,” he said. “We knew that Hibs would come out and try to quieten the Ibrox crowd.
“So we wanted to start fast, strong and dominate possession which I thought we did. I thought the first goal went against the run of play but we showed a great response after that.
“There have been a few comments about the spine of our team. I was told we lacked a spine to our team from a certain outlet during the week.
“But I think we answered all the questions out there today. Without doubt. From our point of view, I think we kept quiet going into the game and the focus was on Rangers.
“We had to make sure we got the preparation right. We knew Hibs would be a very strong opponent on a good run of form, and all credit to them for putting their run together.
“So we knew there would be a test today. But we delivered a really good performance and deserved the three points.”
Jason Holt was Rangers’ stand-out performer, scoring twice to take his tally for the season to nine goals. The former Hearts midfielder was warmly praised by his manager.
“Jason is getting better and better every week,” said Warburton.
“I am delighted with him. He isn’t 23 until February but the consistency and quality of his performances have been first class. He still has so much potential in him. He is far from the finished article and can go as far as he wants to in the game.”
Hibs manager Stubbs was philosophical in his reaction to the end of his team’s 17-match unbeaten run and is confident it will have no longer term adverse effect on their promotion bid.
“Listen, congratulations to Rangers,” said Stubbs. “They have won today and got three points. But as we spoke about before the game, it’s just three points.
“We move on. Today is not going to affect anything. We have been fantastic, going 17 games unbeaten. This was going to happen eventually. It has happened today, but I’m sure it’s not going to affect us.
“The good thing about it is that you have got ourselves, Rangers and Falkirk who could all potentially take points off each other. When you have a championship like that it keeps everybody on their toes. There is a long way to go.”
Stubbs dismissed suggestions any of his ‘mind games’ in the weeks before the match had provided Rangers with additional motivation.
But Warburton, who had insisted he was more concerned about his wife’s Christmas present than anything Stubbs said about his team, enjoyed the last word yesterday.
“I nailed that one,” said Warburton. “My brownie points have soared again. I’m not telling you what I bought my wife, though. There are no headlines on that one!”