Rangers 1 - 1 Hearts: Little's late leveller could go long way for Rangers

REDUCE. Reuse. Recycle.

The green code is not one Rangers might be naturally inclined to follow but Walter Smith currently has no choice as circumstances force him to be one of the most eco-friendly managers in the SPL.

With a third successive transfer window poised to close without the Ibrox club purchasing a new player, Smith continues to make do and mend with the dwindling squad at his disposal. But he showed again on Saturday he has the knack of making a little go a long way.

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On this occasion, it was Andrew Little, to be specific. Time will tell just how significant the 20-year-old Northern Ireland international's stoppage-time equaliser against Hearts proves to be in the SPL title race but, in the circumstances, it seemed more like a point gained for Smith's men rather than two points dropped.

Csaba Laszlo, who has had to be just as resourceful as Smith over the past few months, looked poised to guide Hearts to their first win at Ibrox for almost six years when Scott Robinson put them in front with 15 minutes remaining. If it was against the run of play, it was also a reward for a resilient and tactically disciplined performance by Laszlo's side.

It was also achieved against the setback of Christian Nade's dismissal just two minutes earlier, the big French striker foolishly collecting a second yellow card for kicking the ball away shortly after being booked, albeit harshly, for a foul on David Weir.

Hearts had defended manfully and intelligently throughout the 90 minutes, making the most of Rangers' blunted attacking options as the injured quartet of Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller, Nacho Novo and Steven Naismith looked on from the stand. Smith resisted the temptation to deploy Lee McCulloch up front, instead fielding a pairing of Kyle Lafferty and John Fleck. While it was another frustrating afternoon for Lafferty, who looks desperately short of confidence, Fleck made several eye-catching contributions which were worthy of greater reward.

The 18-year-old showed great pace and awareness to create the clearest opening of the match for Lafferty midway through the second half, only for the gangling forward to drive his low shot straight at Marian Kello. Had Rangers taken the lead at that stage, they would surely have gone on to claim all three points.

But for sheer doggedness alone, Hearts deserved to stretch their current unbeaten SPL run to seven matches. Unwilling to accept the apparent inevitability of their fate when reduced to 10 men, they went in front with a well constructed goal. Lee Wallace, impressive throughout, surged forward and collected a neat pass from David Obua before driving in a low shot which Allan McGregor could only beat away. Robinson, reacting smartly and stealing a crucial yard on the sluggish Sasa Papac, drove the loose ball home from close range.

It was a sweet moment for the 17-year-old, his first senior goal coming when he least expected it, Hearts having effectively switched to a 4-5-0 formation following Nade's departure.

"After big Christian was sent off, we had to reorganise," said Robinson. "I was pushed back into midfield more and I was looking around our team thinking 'have we just gone with everyone across the middle and no strikers?'. But when Lee charged up the field, I could see he was going to have a shot and just decided to gamble on a rebound.

"Luckily for me, I was in the right place to put it away. I just blanked everything out when I scored, I was just so happy to get my first goal for Hearts. I've supported the club all my life and my family were in the crowd, so it was really special."

Remarkably, Hearts almost doubled their lead when 18-year-old striker Ryan Wallace, making his first team debut as a substitute for Robinson, forced McGregor into a good save with three minutes remaining as Rangers left gaps in defence as they went for broke in pursuit of an equaliser.

When Papac skied the ball over from 14 yards after Kello punched a corner straight to the Bosnian defender, Hearts must have believed they had ridden the storm. But in the first minute of stoppage time, Kello could only parry McCulloch's long range shot and substitute Little bundled in his first goal for Rangers.

"In the context of the game and the way it went, we are happy to get a point in the end," admitted Smith. "We have to cope with injuries as all teams do in a season, but the difficulty we are having at the moment is having to pitch people in who haven't been playing on a regular basis. But I feel the younger players like John Fleck and Danny Wilson are doing well at the moment which is a positive for us."

The full-time whistle promoted a risible bout of touchline histrionics from Laszlo who later claimed Rangers' equaliser was the result of "stupidity" from his team. It was a needlessly harsh assessment, although the Hungarian's frustration was understandable to a degree.

"He is an emotional guy and he was really angry with us at the end," said Robinson. "He told us all we should have seen out the victory. But when he calmed down a bit, he said he was pleased with our performance."

What did not please Laszlo was Nade's needless red card which rules him out of Wednesday night's match against Aberdeen at Tynecastle.

"I'm very angry that a player in his situation would do this," said Laszlo.

"The first yellow card was not correct in my opinion, but you must accept that you can't do what he did for the second one in that situation. Fining him won't resolve anything, though. For me, the biggest punishment is not having him in the squad."