Derby win puts Rangers on brink

Kevin Thomson's first goal for Rangers was enough to earn a 1-0 win over Celtic that leaves the Ibrox club on the brink of reclaiming the Scottish Premier League title from their arch rivals.

Former Hibs midfielder Thomson secured his new club's fourth successive Old Firm win a minute before half-time, exchanging passes with striker Jean-Claude Darcheville before sliding a low finish past Artur Boruc in the Celtic goal.

The win extended Rangers' lead at the top of the table to six points and, with the benefit of a game in hand, manager Walter Smith looks destined to secure the SPL trophy in his first full season in charge.

Rangers, who have now won 13 consecutive matches in the league, have already secured the League Cup this season and are on track to complete a domestic treble as well as having reached the last eight of the UEFA Cup, in which they will face Sporting Lisbon next week.

"It's a good three points because we have two Old Firm games to come at Celtic Park and I felt we had to get a win here," Smith said.

"Hopefully getting this result will give us a little bit of leeway until the end of the season.

"It was a terrific goal. It showed a level of football we should have been playing before that.

"We got pushed back in the last 20 minutes as you would expect, but the boys at the back dealt with the ball into the penalty area very well."

For the second Old Firm contest of the campaign, Rangers were close to full strength with Barry Ferguson, Allan McGregor, Christian Dailly and Lee McCulloch all returning from injury after sitting out Scotland's midweek friendly draw with Croatia.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan opted to leave top scorer Scott McDonald on the bench until ten minutes from time, a gamble that backfired given the limited impact made by the combination of Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Georgios Samaras.

Vennegoor of Hesselink's crude challenge on David Weir set the tone for some typically frantic opening exchanges, during which the Dutchman knocked an Aiden McGeady cross narrowly wide.

At the other end, McCulloch headed a Thomson free-kick off target but Celtic were first to seriously threaten, Scott Brown's shot from a tight angle coming off the outside of the post.

Gradually Rangers started to dominate however and their pressure paid off as the half-time whistle approached. Driving into the box in typical fashion, Thomson played a one-two with Darcheville and kept his nerve to squeeze his shot past the sprawling Boruc.

From then on, Rangers were able to control proceedings and it was clear it would take something special for Celtic to conjure up an equaliser.

Andreas Hinkel almost did that in the 64th minute, unleashing a 30-yard drive which forced McGregor into a superb save diving to his left.

Rangers suffered a blow when Thomson was stretchered off with quarter of an hour left after tumbling on the edge of the box in response to what appeared to be the lightest of touches from Samaras.

Thomson's replacement was Charlie Adam and the midfielder should have made it 2-0 in the closing seconds after being sent clear by a fine pass from fellow substitute Nacho Novo.

Adam opted for power with his finish and his drive was brilliantly blocked by Boruc.