Ross McCrorie leveller sends battle for second into final game
Ross McCrorie sent the race for second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership down to the wire as his equaliser gave Rangers a crucial 1-1 draw away to Aberdeen.
The Pittodrie hosts looked on course for the victory which would have killed off the Ibrox side’s hopes of finishing ‘best of the rest’ after Kenny McLean’s controversial penalty put the Dons ahead early.
But McCrorie ensured the three-team fight for the runners-up slot will go to the last day of the season with his second-half equaliser.
Gers remain a point behind Derek McInnes’ men but Hibernian can draw level with the Light Blues if they beat Hearts on Wednesday night, meaning it will be all to play for when the Reds go to Celtic Park and the Ibrox side to Easter Road on Sunday’s final day of the season.
The Dons took the lead after 14 minutes – and they had referee Steven McLean to thank.
Alfredo Morelos clearly got a touch to the ball as he tried to nick in before McLean collected Ryan Christie’s low corner.
But the official got his decision all wrong as his namesake hit the deck, pointing to the spot without hesitation.
The Aberdeen man did not care as he dusted himself down before sending Jak Alnwick the wrong way with his penalty.
The goalscorer almost had a second on 27 minutes as his fiercely-hit strike rattled the crossbar from 30 yards out.
He was involved again five minutes before the break as Sam Cosgrove nodded down Shay Logan’s cross but this time McLean could not find the sweet spot as Alnwick gathered easily.
By the time referee McLean blew for half-time he had booked four Rangers players as well as Cosgrove.
The Dons striker could count himself lucky not to have been treated more harshly after swinging a flailing arm into David Bates’ face, while Andy Halliday and Jason Holt had tread a fine line with couple of late challenges of their own.
The Light Blues had looked subdued during the first period but came back out with a bit more life about them.
They should have levelled on 57 minutes as Daniel Candeias and James Tavernier carved the Reds apart down the right but Morelos’ back-post header fell tamely into Joe Lewis’ grasp.
But Jimmy Nicholl’s side only had to wait another six minutes for the equaliser.
Morelos drove in from the left to shoot. Dons defender Scott McKenna got his head to the ball but could not get up in time as the ball looped above him and that let in McCrorie to climb high and nod down into the corner of the net.
McKenna redeemed himself soon after as he came up with a vital block to deny Morelos as he raced in behind.
Both sides had chances during a nervy climax but they will have to wait for the weekend for the final chapter of this engrossing race to be written.