RANGERS were narrowly edged out of the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens by an older and much more experienced Newcastle United side who won 3-2 to reach the final they won last year.
However, the Auchenhowie youngsters can be justifiably proud of their efforts in the tournament, especially defeating Manchester City in the quarter-finals, and there were some terrific individual performers like Luca Gasparotto, Andy Murdoch and Robbie Crawford.
In truth all of the lads gave coach Ian Durrant plenty to think about with a great showing in the annual event.
Robbie Crawford and Jamie Burrows got the goals for Rangers but Sammy Ameobi made the difference for the Magpies with two while Michael Richardson got the other Newcastle goal.
Rangers were undoubtedly the better side in the opening spell and Tom Walsh caused the Newcastle defence considerable trouble. Firstly he had a shot blocked after taking a pass from Crawford.
Then he cut inside onto his left foot and smashed a fantastic shot which smacked the right post and may even have been diverted there by keeper Jak Alnwick.
Durrant’s lads had their tails up and terrific perseverance by Crawford led to Rangers taking the lead. He robbed Connor Newton who dithered on the ball and slammed a low shot into the net.
Rangers looked comfortable in their lead as the semi-final headed towards half-time but an unfortunate mistake by keeper Liam Kelly allowed Newcastle to equalise.
Kelly sliced an attempted clearance right into the path of Richardson and he had an empty net gaping in front of him.
It clearly took the wind out of Rangers’ sails and even after a good chat with Durrant at half-time they fell behind early in the second period when Richardson’s great ball into the box was well finished by Ameobi.
Durrant freshened things up bringing on Burrows, Charlie Telfer and Calum Gallagher and it was Burrows who breathed new life into the Final dream only for it to be sucked away again within seconds.
The young Englishman showed great strength to dispossess Paul Dummett and then excellent composure as he rifled a low shot passed Alnwick. His strike had come straight after Ameobi had hit the bar at the other end and it seemed the tide was changing.
However, having drawn level Rangers lost a third goal almost immediately when they switched off as Richardson again set up Ameobi, this time with a sliderule pass and the England under-21 striker slammed a left foot shot past Kelly.
Ameobi, younger brother of Shola, was on loan at Middlesbrough last season and he looked a class act up front.
Newcastle played down the clock in the final minute and Rangers did not have an opportunity to equalise so the dream was over.
However, overall it was a highly successful trip for the youngsters who gained valuable experience and showed their talent in very good company.