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By ESPN Staff
Apr 15, 2006

Hearts strengthen grip on second spot

GLASGOW, April 15 (Reuters) - Hearts strengthened their grip on the second Champions League place with a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League after 2005 champions Rangers stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen.

Paul Hartley fired the 70th minute opener for Hearts and Christophe Berra headed the second four minutes from the end to put the Edinburgh club five points ahead of Rangers who have 63.

Rangers were held at home despite taking the lead through striker Kris Boyd after 51 minutes. Aberdeen levelled with a long range shot from Scott Severin which deceived keeper Ronald Waterreus.

Celtic, who tied up the title 10 days ago, are to be presented with the trophy before they play Hibernian on Sunday. They have 85 points from 33 games.

Hearts caretaker manager Valdas Ivanauskas was delighted with the victory over Kilmarnock but quickly turned his attentions to next week's Edinburgh derby.

"We have a derby next week against Hibernian and we will give them every respect," Ivanauskas told BBC Radio Scotland.

"Today was a good performance and we need to go and do that again."

Rangers manager Alex McLeish said his team should keep their spirits up despite the draw with Aberdeen.

"It (the Champions League place) is obviously slipping away but I have to remind the players they have to hang on to their belief," he said.

"We were only five points behind with four games to go last season and we pulled it off (to win the championship on the last day)."

Elsewhere, St Mirren won division two to gain promotion to the Premier League for the first time in five years.