Buddies' cup dreams smashed by nine-man Gers

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Who called it a Mickey Mouse Cup? The Co-operative Insurance Cup has dropped down the list of priorities for most clubs in recent times but Rangers and St Mirren conjured up an absorbing final packed full of passion and entertainment that brought a great degree of prestige back to this undervalued competition.

History will remember this as the final that St Mirren somehow contrived to lose but Rangers, who played the last 20 minutes with only nine men after Kevin Thomson and Danny Wilson were both sent off, deserve enormous credit for collecting a 1-0 win courtesy of Kenny Miller's late header.

WEEKEND RESULTS Sat Mar 20 SPL Aberdeen 2-2 Dundee United, Celtic 3-0 St Johnstone, Hamilton 2-2 Falkirk, Hearts 2-1 Hibernian Sun Mar 21 CIS Cup Final Rangers 1-0 St Mirren's Scottish Stats Section

Walter Smith has bemoaned the fact that, in his eyes, Rangers have not received adequate plaudits and praise during their inexorable march towards the SPL title along with their pursuit of both domestic cups. The Rangers manager claims his team does much more than purely grind out victories but this cup triumph was the ultimate in patiently achieving a result against all odds.

St Mirren, the 10/1 pre-match underdogs, were simply sublime in the first half, with Billy Mehmet and Michael Higdon giving the Rangers central defensive pairing of David Weir and Danny Wilson a torrid time. The Buddies hit the bar and went close on a numerous occasions but their profligacy proved fatal.

The Gers looked jaded and jittery in the first period as St Mirren grafted to create an opening that was not forthcoming. Ultimately, it was the red cards that turned the game – but it was Rangers who were galvanised by their numerical handicap, while St Mirren struggled to adjust their game plan to capitalise on their two-man advantage.

Smith said afterwards that the cup win ranked alongside some of his finest achievements during his time in charge at Ibrox.

Ibrox backroom staff celebrate

It's difficult to criticise St Mirren after their plucky performance, but they'll know they threw away a fantastic chance to win their first major domestic cup trophy in 23 years. Gus MacPherson will be hoping the excruciating pain of falling at the final hurdle won't adversely impact his side's attempts to remain in the SPL.

On the league front, the Buddies will have been pleased to see fellow relegation candidates Hamilton Accies and Falkirk share the spoils in an action-packed 2-2 draw at New Douglas Park.

The game of the day saw Hearts manager Jim Jefferies mastermind a 2-1 victory over Edinburgh rivals Hibernian. Two goals in as many minutes from Andrew Driver and Gary Glen put the Jambos ahead before Derek Riordan pulled a goal back twelve minutes from time. An inspired Hearts could have easily scored five or six had their finishing been more clinical.

The result was bad news for Aberdeen's fading hopes of reaching the top six. The Dons equalled their worst run in the club's history, extending their winless sequence to 11 matches with a 2-2 home draw with Dundee United. Dons boss Mark McGhee will, however, be able to take some solace from the manner in which his side fought back from two goals down to earn a point.

Youngster Paul McGowan took full advantage of a surprise start for Celtic with a man-of-the-match performance as the Hoops defeated St Johnstone 3-0. Robbie Keane bagged his ninth in nine games in between Josh Thompson's opener and Georgios Samaras's late strike.

Scottish Football League Round Up
Dundee made the surprise decision to sack manager Jocky Scott following their 3-0 defeat to relegation strugglers Airdrie United. The Dens Park side are currently three points clear at the top of the table but it appears this capitulation combined with last weekend's Scottish Cup exit to Raith Rovers was the final straw for the Dundee board.

The club have acted swiftly to appoint Gordon Chisholm and his assistant Billy Dodds as the new management team, expected to take the club across the finishing line and into the SPL next term.

Elsewhere, Inverness Caley Thistle and Ross County had to settle for a point in a goalless Highland derby that helps neither team in their pursuit of leaders Dundee, while there was also wins for Ayr United, Morton and Dunfermline Athletic.

Alloa Athletic went five points clear at the top of the Second Division with a 2-1 win over Stenhousemuir, while Livingston edged even closer to the Third Division title with a 2-1 victory over Stranraer in front of a decent crowd of 1,136.

It's been a good week for... Kenny Miller. The former Celtic striker said he finally felt accepted by the Rangers supporters after they sang his name following his late Co-op Cup winner.

It's been a bad week for... Gus MacPherson. A heartbreaking end to a wonderful cup run. His side battled bravely but were to rue their missed chances. Attention will now turn back to their relegation dogfight.

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