Five things we learned from Rangers v Hearts

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Rangers came out 2-1 winners at Ibrox with plenty of talking points coming from the game.

Rangers took control in the race for second place with an impressive 2-1 victory against league champions Hearts. The Gers continued to show improvements and there was plenty to take from the game that included more goals for Rangers’ strikers and an overdue red card for their captain before a tense end to the game.

Rangers are better off without Lee McCulloch

The Gers captain has been underperforming for quite some time now, and has looked off the pace. Getting sent off for an elbow just before the end of the first half was hardly a shock because he leads with his elbow going into most challenges. Captains should lead by example and the 36-year-old certainly hasn’t done that with a reckless challenge that put his team under the pressure of playing with 10 men for the entire second half, making it especially difficult in the closing stages when Hearts got a goal back.

A lot can be said about the fact that Rangers looked more secure at the back after McCulloch had been sent off, showing just how much the Gers are having to carry their ageing captain.

Stuart McCall’s tactics were spot on

The decision to revert back to a 4-4-2 was done to nullify Hearts’ formation and paid dividends. Rangers went about their business in an efficient – and at times impressive – fashion in the opening 45 minutes. They were also organised defensively when reduced to 10 men and kept Hearts to a solitary goal in the second half, showing desire and determination to secure a win.

The tactical tinkering of the new manager is bringing out the best in the team as well as showing the attentive awareness that McCall is applying in his role.

Rangers are in the driving seat for promotion

The result and overall display – minus that of McCulloch – will be a massive boost for this squad going towards the play-offs. The short-term improvements have culminated in a Rangers team that displayed good passing football, and even put in resolute shifts at the back.

Rangers now have second place in their own hands, making it theirs to lose, and on current form it looks as if they can give themselves the best possible chance of returning to the Scottish Premiership

Strikers finally playing their part

McCall has lifted the entire team since arriving, but none more so than the Light Blues' strikers. Nicky Clark and Kenny Miller have both been amongst the goals, with Miller scoring two in two against both of the Edinburgh based teams. The strikers were always going to be important during the run-in to the season after a collective baron spell in the first part of 2015, with goals vital as Rangers continue to build momentum.

Haris Vuckic a must next season

The Slovenian midfielder has become a very important player since joining on loan from Newcastle in January. His first-half goal was well taken on his left foot, leaving Neil Alexander no chance diving to his right. Rangers should aim to secure the services of Vuckic for next season to boost their chances of success, with his performances the only bright point of a farcical deal that involved five Newcastle players.

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