JOEY BARTON was told to stay away but Mark Warburton couldn’t banish the blues at Ibrox.
Ross County added to the Ibrox boss’ woes with a gritty performance to get a point they more than merited.
Warburton will point to the possession his side and chances they created.
But the bottom line was they couldn’t break down the Highlanders on their first ever league visit to Ibrox.
A section of Rangers fans booed loudly the final to show their displeasure and it was hard to blame them.
But credit to Jim McIntyre’s County.
They defended for their lives when they had to and can argue they deserved not to be beaten.
Only time will tell now what the future holds for Barton with his D-Day with Warburton coming on Monday.
But this the last kind of result the Gers boss needed.
Warburton made no less than five changes to the side that lost heavily to Celtic at Parkhead last weekend.
Barton was nowhere to seen for obvious reasons, Philippe Senderos was missing through suspension with Rob Kiernan ruled out through injury.
With Kenny Miller and Niko Kranjcar dropped onto the bench it meant a handful of alterations were made.
Clint Hill, Danny Wilson, Jason Holt, Andy Halliday and Martyn Waghorn all started.
Warburton was hoping the changes would inject something into his side which wasn’t there last weekend.
But there was no immediate improvement.
County bedded themselves into the game and showed right from the start that they’re a sturdy side.
Rangers had first-half chances but so too did the visitors in a game which had very little in it for long spells.
Josh Windass could have scored to give Gers the lead after eight minutes.
He burst through brilliantly with a tremendous turn of pace and rounded keeper Scott Fox with ease.
But with the goal at his mercy he didn’t connect properly with the ball and his weak shot was booted off the line.
It was an encouraging start for Rangers.
But County held firm and showed signs themselves that they were capable of causing problems too.
Alex Schalk had a shot saved by Wes Foderingham in 27 minutes.
It became a hard-fought game with both sides grafting hard in the middle of the park but what was missing was a clinical edge in front of goal.
Windass had another couple of cracks at goal.
The home support thought he’d scored after 30 minutes but his shot went wide before he had another attempt fly over.
You couldn’t help wonder if the Rangers fans would begin to lose their patience but in fairness they stuck with their team.
It wasn’t always easy for them.
Lee Wallace was robbed off the ball just before the break with County attacker Craig Curran making life difficult for the Ibrox skipper.
The left-back’s challenge saw him booked and he had another swipe at him seconds later which was none-too-clever.
County gaffer McIntyre would have been more than pleased at the break.
His side hadn’t been overawed by the challenge and were right in the game for the start of the second half.
Rangers put them under pressure as soon as the game got going again.
Rangers fans screamed for a penalty in 53 minutes when Barrie Mackay was challenged by Jonathan Franks inside the box but referee Greg Aitken shook his head and waved play on.
Four minutes later Waghorn had a shot which was saved brilliantly by Fox.
Seconds later Hill then had a header cleared off the line by Martin Woods as County escaped yet again.
It was suddenly hard graft for the Highlanders.
They were struggling to get out of their own half with their defence right up against it and pushed to the limits.
In a bid to added some fresh legs to his side’s attack Warburton made two changes in 65 minutes.
Waghorn and Joe Garner was taken off with Miller and Michael O’Halloran thrown on.
And the alteration almost had an immediate impact.
A cross into the box saw O’Halloran smack the crossbar with a header in another near miss for the home side.
County had their backs against the wall.
But in 70 minutes they burst forward and forced another decent save from Foderingham with Schalk testing him with a blasted shot from inside the box.
Rangers threw on Kranjcar with 20 minutes to go and he almost set up a goal from a corner.
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But his expert delivery into the box – which was attacked by Windass – brought a sensational stop from County keeper Fox.
There was a farcical moment late on when a Rangers supporter stepped out from the Broonloan Road Stand to launch a one-man demo by the side of Foderingham’s goal.
Stewards and cops quickly rushed across to hustle the idiot away with Gers fans hurling abuse at him for wasting time.
Rangers just couldn’t find a way through no matter how hard they tried.
Even with five added minutes they couldn’t get a breakthrough as County held on for a deserved point to take back up the road.