Steven Gerrard is clinging on to his hopes of landing a trophy in his first season as Rangers boss after his side scraped a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup at Pittodrie.
Rangers looked to be crashing out of the competition after Sam Cosgrove fired the Dons ahead with an early penalty, but they forced a replay thanks to Joe Worrall’s first goal for the club.
The clash did not exactly go with the form book as Aberdeen shrugged off their recent struggles at home to give the visitors a thoroughly uncomfortable afternoon.
While Derek McInnes’ men had managed just one win in their last seven at Pittodrie, Rangers travelled north with confidence after blasting 14 goals in their last three games.
Yet Gerrard knew defeat would mean he would likely end his rookie year at Ibrox empty-handed and there will be some relief that his team will get a second go at reaching the last four.
With Storm Freya causing blustery conditions the game descended into a messy scrap and that suited Aberdeen down to the ground.
The Dons’ desire shone through just nine minutes in as Max Lowe pounced on a moment of hesitancy from Daniel Candeias to take possession and drive forward. The on-loan Derby defender slipped the ball through for Gary Mackay-Steven but before the winger could make a move Connor Goldson wiped out his standing leg, leaving Kevin Clancy with only one choice as he pointed to the spot.
Allan McGregor got a hand to Cosgrove’s penalty but could not keep it out.
Alfredo Morelos had been sent off in each of his three previous meetings with Aberdeen this season and the Colombian’s antics were soon drawn to the official’s attention as he threw himself theatrically to the ground after brushing up against Andrew Considine to earn a booking.
The ball was spending more time in the air than on the deck but Aberdeen were working harder to make sure the breaks went their way. Scott McKenna and Niall McGinn – introduced for Mackay-Steven after he limped off in the wake of the penalty – both sent efforts over McGregor’s bar.
Rangers managed one chance but Ryan Kent blazed over.
Whatever Gerrard said during the break, it got the reaction he was after as his side levelled within four minutes of the restart.
Worrall was being marked by Cosgrove as Kent swung over a deep corner but the Aberdeen scorer got tangled up with team-mate Lewis Ferguson, leaving the Rangers centre-back unchecked to slot home at the back post.
Rangers were lucky to survive a defensive mix-up of their own, however, as Considine got free to glance a header towards goal from McGinn’s corner. Scott Arfield and Ryan Jack were both required to clear off their own line as the hosts threw bodies at the loose ball.
Cosgrove saw yellow after catching Borna Barisic with an arm but Graeme Shinnie was lucky a booking was all he got after diving in on Arfield.
Aberdeen turned up the pressure as the game ticked into the final quarter of an hour. Considine’s strike was stopped by McGregor before Barisic denied McKenna on the follow-up.
Gers had one late chance to snatch victory but Considine’s brave block denied Morelos.