RANGERS supporters waited seven years to see their side at the top of the table. The feeling, and that stint, was to last just three days.

Victory over Hearts at the weekend took Steven Gerrard’s side into pole position in the Premiership title race. Defeat to Aberdeen has seen them slip to second as they failed to take advantage of Celtic’s draw at Motherwell.

Scott McKenna netted the only goal of the game as Sam Cosgrove and then Alfredo Morelos saw red at Ibrox. It was to prove a costly night for boss Gerrard.

Rangers are in the midst of a run of fixtures that could well shape their ambitions for the rest of the campaign. They have overcome four challenges in recent weeks but fell at the fifth hurdle here.

The frustration and the disappointment was clear on the park and off it come the final whistle. This was undoubtedly an opportunity missed for Rangers.

Gerrard may have been having a mischievous jibe at Craig Levein when he claimed the Rangers fans were their 14th man at Tynecastle on Sunday but he was certainly serious when he called on the Ibrox crowd to play their part here.

The Gers’ form on home soil has been transformed this term and Gerrard’s side took to the field having dropped just two points – against Kilmarnock in October – here all season.

Encounters with the Dons are never quiet affairs and there was a buzz in the air as Rangers started brightly in the opening exchanges. Soon, though, Ibrox was silenced.

Gerrard had freshened it up by bringing Jon Flanagan, Ryan Jack and Glenn Middleton back into the starting line-up following their energy-sapping afternoon against Hearts.

An early goal would have been a real blow to a Dons side trying to pick themselves up from their Betfred Cup final defeat to Celtic, but Derek McInnes’ side got the dream start.

Aberdeen hadn’t got going in the first seven minutes but it was the visitors that took the lead as McKenna hooked the ball beyond Allan McGregor from close range. Rangers had failed to clear the initial free-kick from Niall McGinn, or win the second ball as Cosgrove got the last touch before McKenna scored.

There was a roar of encouragement around Ibrox as the travelling Reds fans celebrated but there wasn’t enough to get the Gers supporters going for prolonged periods. Rangers had enough of the ball, but couldn’t do that much with it.

The loss of Scott Arfield looked costly at this stage, with neither Lassana Coulibaly or Ovie Ejaria able to have any real attacking influence as Morelos found himself isolated through the middle.

Coulibaly couldn’t connect with a James Tavernier free-kick from the right, while Morelos glanced a header into the near post netting after a corner from his captain.

It was a low-quality affair at times but it was certainly watchable. Neither team was able to get into a rhythm and referee Steven McLean didn’t help matters as a series of niggling fouls interrupted the flow of the game.

He made the right call when he flashed red after 33 minutes, though. Cosgrove was already on a booking after catching Gareth McAuley early on and he could have no complaints about being sent off.

The challenge on Connor Goldson was needless as the defender attempted to clear his lines deep in his own half. Despite Aberdeen’s protests, Cosgrove had to go.

That could have been the moment that sparked Rangers into life but they couldn’t make the numerical advantage count before the break as Aberdeen stood firm.

Middleton was involved in both of their best chances. He forced Joe Lewis into a smart save low to his left with a low shot, before the resulting corner was headed over by Morelos.

The chorus of boos at the break were directed towards McLean and his team but Rangers had bigger problems than some ropey refereeing.

Gerrard had to get his side going, and quickly. Flanagan was replaced at the break as Kyle Lafferty entered the action and Gerrard went on the offensive.

The Northern Irishman picked up a booking just minutes into the second half but he had soon tested Lewis as the keeper saved well. The follow-up block, turning a Jack effort wide of his right post, was even better.

The plan was now clear for Aberdeen as they attempted to stifle and frustrate Rangers and cause some angst amongst the home crowd. There was a warm welcome for Eros Grezda, on in place of Coulibaly, as another attacking option was added to the action.

It was no surprise that Rangers were having the majority of the possession now but they continued to struggle as the ball was shifted left and right and too often wasted. When they did get in behind, Morelos fired over on the angle.

That was his last chance. Just minutes later, McLean showed him a second yellow card for catching Graeme Shinnie with his arm after the Dons skipper had won the ball in the middle of the park.

Gerrard had warned his players about the cost of needless reds on Wednesday morning but he was once again let down by the decision making of one of his key players. Rangers had it all to do now to salvage a point, never mind take all three.

The Gers became increasingly desperate as the clock ticked on and the frustrations from the stands were more audible and frequent. It was starting to look like one of those nights.

In the end, so it was to prove. There was no dramatic equaliser like the one Aberdeen got on the opening day of the campaign at Pittodrie.

There were only thoughts of what might, and what should, have been for Rangers as their unbeaten Ibrox run and top spot were snatched away in one go.