The Scottish game from the Borders to the Highlands & Islands and beyond
The title race may have been over as a contest weeks ago, but Rangers completed the formalities of winning the championship with a 1-0 win over Hibernian on Sunday.
The much-maligned figure of Kyle Lafferty – criticised by a section of his own support for his failure to deliver after coming to Ibrox for a hefty price, and derided by opposition supporters for his ability to embellish a tumble – was the unlikely hero, scoring the only goal of the game to clinch the Scottish Premier League trophy.
Rangers manager Walter Smith must have enjoyed his ninth title win as much as any previous championship successes. With the club facing financial constraints amid the uncertainty search for a successor to owner David Murray, Smith has had to yield the absolute maximum from a small band of players. Indeed, Smith hasn't bought a player since signing Maurice Edu from Toronto in August 2008.
The lack of a challenge from struggling rivals Celtic may have made Rangers' 53rd title win appear one of their easier triumphs, but the backdrop to this success should make it all the sweeter for fans.
Smith and his backroom staff have been working without contracts since January and it's unclear whether the 62-year-old will be at the helm to defend the title next term. That will depend on the direction the club's next owner wants to take the club – but few managers would have been able to achieve as much as Smith did this term with such limited resources.
Earlier in the day, Celtic had temporarily postponed Rangers' title party with a 2-0 win over Dundee United at Tannadice. A Diomansy Kamara strike and a Robbie Keane penalty gave the Hoops victory in an ill-tempered match that saw United substitute Jennison Myrie-Williams sent-off for a second bookable offence.
It was Celtic's fifth league win in a row under caretaker boss Neil Lennon and ensured the Hoops would finish in the second and final Champions League spot.
At the opposite end of the table, a second-half Andy Dorman header was enough to give St Mirren a massive victory over Kilmarnock in a tense relegation battle. Gus MacPherson's men now enjoy a four-point cushion over bottom side Falkirk, who went down 1-0 at home to Hamilton Accies.
The Bairns, one point behind Killie, look favourites for relegation – although not according to boss Steven Pressley. In an extraordinary post-match press conference, a defiant Pressley took only one minute to tell a startled gathering of reporters his side would beat the dreaded drop.
“There's no way while I'm the manager of this team that we'll go under,” he roared, banging the table in front of him. “There's such a burning desire there and we'll pick ourselves up next week.” And with another bang on the table for good measure, the Falkirk manager stormed out of the press room.
Elsewhere, Aberdeen were denied a win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park when Andy Jackson netted in the final minute to cancel out Steve MacLean's opener.
Craig Brown's Motherwell moved into fourth position with a 2-0 win away at Hearts with goals from Steven Saunders and John Sutton. The Steelmen will do well to retain the services of Jim O'Brien, out of contract in the summer, after the talented Irish winger turned in another impressive display.
Scottish Football League Round Up
Inverness Caledonian Thistle celebrated their promotion to the Scottish Premier League in style with a 7-0 trouncing of Ayr United. Terry Butcher's side are undefeated in 20 matches, while Ayr are now precariously placed a point above bottom-dwellers Airdie United, who drew 2-2 with Queen of the South.
Ross County's poor form since their famous Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Celtic continued as they went down 2-1 at home to Partick Thistle. The Highlanders have failed to win any of their three away games since their Hampden triumph.
Stirling Albion seized the initiative in the Second Division with a 1-0 win over relegated Clyde as Alloa Athletic dropped into second place following a 2-0 defeat at Peterhead – their third loss on the trot.
In the Third Division champions Livingston put five past lowly Montrose, while Queen's Park suffered a blow to their hopes of reaching the play-offs as they went down 1-0 to Elgin City.
It's been a good week for... Walter Smith. The Rangers manager celebrated back-to-back titles this weekend but will he still be at Ibrox to lead the challenge for three-in-a-row?
It's been a bad week for... Steven Pressley. Elvis must be feeling the pressure as his side sit bottom of the SPL with only three games left to play.
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