The owner, who had taken control in 2019, passed away last month but a day after a private memorial service in the capital, this was the chance for the fans to rally round in the first home game since the sad news broke.
Pre-match, messages from fans and mourners were displayed on the big screens, while the players warmed up in their commemorative t-shirts and the pitchside electronic hoardings displayed: ‘May the sunshine of Leith shine on you always Ron - sending love to Kit, Ian & Colin’, enveloping the late owner and chairman’s wife and sons in as much warmth as was possible on a freezing cold night.
And, Gordon would have surely flashed one of his trademark beaming grins at the way the home crowd drowned out the callous and classless attempts of the moronic visiting fans who tried to disrespect the occasion. Truth be told they worked their way through their most odious and offensive song list as the match progressed but in that moment, the Hibs fans made sure it wasn’t about them.
As a banner was unfurled in the East Stand, proclaiming; ‘While our chief still shines on Leith’ and a video montage of the popular former chairman played on the big screens and three sides of the ground raised scarves aloft and belted out one of the most emotive renditions of the club’s adopted anthem Sunshine on Leith, since the club had beaten Rangers to lift the 2016 Scottish Cup. It was against that backdrop that both teams emerged from the tunnel.
A fixture which has developed a real edge in recent years, rarely shy of rancour or controversy, as Hibs have proved themselves capable of giving the Ibrox side a run for their money, and there were predictions of another humdinger as the with side looked to build on their run of seven games unbeaten.
That form had helped to elevate them and had taken them to within five points of third-placed Hearts.
But Rangers are a team who have been relentless on league duty under Michael Beale, dropping just two points, to league leaders Celtic, since the World Cup break and, against Hibs, they were in no mood to allow a slip up.
Just as they did when they ran Rangers close in December, Hibs opened the scoring. Having started positively, with Elie Youan and Lewis Stevenson combining before the latter picked out Ewan Henderson who cut the ball back for Matthew Hoppe but his effort on the turn promised more than it delivered as it trundled past.
In the eighth minute, the pressure did pay off when the US striker fired in a tempting cross and Conor Goldson failed to resist the invitation. Attempting to get in first, all he could do was divert the ball past Allan McGregor to give the hosts the opener.
At Ibrox, in the last meeting, Hibs quickly gave Rangers the equaliser to alleviate any pressure and while the arrival of James Jeggo and CH Egan-Riley have certainly galvanised Hibs since their arrival, and given them a more robust look in recent weeks - explaining the fact that while they have scored 14 goals in their last five league outings, they have conceded just two - the former had his least effective game as the Rangers midfielders worked with Antonio Colak to pull them apart in the middle of the park. Far too easy to play through their host’s defences, the pace of Fashion Sakala on the left flank was another route in behind and, as the match played on, the fragility was emphasised as the guests' self-belief grew.
They had quickly restored parity when Hibs were again caught out by a Ryan Kent dart in behind and VAR intervened to punish Egan-Riley for a last-gasp tackle. James Tavernier stepped up to net from the spot. Kent and Sakala were running Hibs ragged at that stage and David Marshall had to be alert to deny both of them as Rangers took control all over the pitch.
There was a flicker of hope as Hibs tried a quick freekick to Elie Youan but Allan McGregor was one of the few in the away ranks who was alert to the danger and he was quickly out to spread himself and make things tough for the Frenchman, who couldn’t get the ball beyond him.
Frustrated at their team’s inability to make the ball stick at the top end of the pitch, if the Easter Road crowd had hoped for something better in the second half, they were to be disappointed as Beale’s men cut the legs out from underneath them just eight minutes after the interval and then proved merciless as they piled on the agony.
Jeggo played a passback to Marshall as Sakala harangued him but the keeper kicked it straight out to Ryan Jack who nodded back to Sakala to take around the former Scotland keeper and slot home and make it 3-1.
It was 4-1 by the 58th minute as the home side failed to clear their area and Colak found himself in the kind of space no striker of his calibre should ever be allowed and he capitalised with a clinical finish.
Messy enough, it could have been a helluva lot worse for the Edinburgh side but another ‘goal’ was disallowed as Rangers romped to an easy triumph.
The sunshine didn’t last but as the snow fell in Leith, their only solace was that Hearts lost in Glasgow and did not pull further away.