RANGERS stretched their lead at the top of League One to 14 points with a game in hand as they earned a hard-fought victory at nearest challengers Dunfermline.

Fraser Aird’s excellent opener put the away side in command before Nicky Clark stole a second from Jon Daly shortly after half-time.

Nicky Law’s fine finish on the break and substitute Robbie Crawford’s late drive rounded off a fine night’s work as the Light Blues ended up worthy 4-0 victors.

Winning was the ideal way to react after the disappointment of drawing with Stranraer on Boxing Day, a result which brought a 20-match run of victories to an end.

And should Gers beat Airdrie three days from now then win their outstanding match at Stenhousemuir on Sunday, the gap at the top will extend further with half the season left.

Manager McCoist made two changes to the team which slipped up against Stevie Aitken’s Stair Park side last Thursday.

Lewis Macleod, having struggled with a heavy cold in the lead-up to that match, dropped to the bench with Arnold Peralta.

Aird came in for the Honduran on the right flank while Stevie Smith was also recalled for his first start since October 19 at Brechin.

Andy Little and David Templeton – both substitutes four days ago – dropped out completely, with Templeton taking to Twitter to explain he had strained his thigh in training.

It was the unlikely Smith who had the best scoring chance in the opening moments of a game played out in front of a thronging crowd of 10,089.

Daly played him in with a deft header and after nodding down too in an attempt to set himself up, Smith pulled his shot from just inside the area across goal and a yard wide.

Although there weren’t many other openings to begin with, the match was played at a furious pace and it had an edge from the off.

Following last month’s tempestuous affair between the sides at Ibrox in which four home players collected significant injuries, tackles from both teams here were firm and robust.

McCoist had expected that would be the case before kick-off and had urged his players to remain within the rules of the game despite their grievances last time out.

By and large, they did that and made most of the running initially before play started to swing from end to end as the Pars settled down and had chances themselves.

Jordan Moore hit the target with a shot which was weak and held by Cammy Bell before the keeper reacted ever so well to tip Stephen Husband’s header over from Alex Whittle’s corner.

Rangers had to respond and when they did they went in front with a terrific goal from teenage winger Aird midway through the first half.

Law did really well on the right to hold off his man with good upper-body strength and play back inside to his team-mate who was in space.

Aird then surged forward and stepped away from a defender before slotting a lovely low shot past Ryan Scully from the edge of the penalty box.

Gers had opportunities to double their advantage before the break, with the first coming after a foul on Clark in midfield.

Ian Black took a deep free kick and picked out Daly at the back post but somehow nobody turned his knock down into the net.

The striker tried to make up for that moments later when Lee Wallace clipped a ball back to him but his effort was tame and stopped by Scully.

Dunfermline’s keeper was beaten just before the whistle following another foul on Clark but this time Smith’s bending set piece arced a yard too high.

And when Clark’s shot was spilled and Aird turned the rebound goalwards, it was hacked clear just in time to ensure it was still 1-0 at the midway stage.

Although they couldn’t make their period of pressure count before heading for the dressing rooms, the Light Blues did strike again five minutes after the restart.

Just who got the goal perhaps remains up for debate but it seems as though Clark will be given the credit for putting his team 2-0 up.

Aird did well to win a corner and took it himself, picking out Daly who nodded down towards goal.

His header was going in already but poacher Clark was there on the line to make sure and he probably touched the ball before it fell over the line.

Adding a second worked as well for Rangers as it affected Dunfermline and their heads dropped a little as the realisation of their task quickly set in.

With their tails up, Law had a chance to score but missed after Clark had teed him up before he took another opportunity with 20 minutes left to seal the points.

Macleod, on for Smith, did well to rob Ryan Williamson of possession and scurried upfield as three players poured forward on the break.

One of those was Law and he ran on the overlap to latch on to a weighted pass and dink in his seventh goal of the campaign to make it 3-0.

Black had a shot deflected wide, Daly’s header was well directed but easily collected by Scully and two Macleod efforts were stopped too in the closing stages.

But there was to be a fourth and it came from Crawford, who converted Daly’s knock down in injury time to round off the scoring.

DUNFERMLINE: Scully; Williamson (Spence 89), Young, Martin, Whittle; Byrne (Smith 76), Husband, Falkingham, Geggan; Wallace, Moore.

SUBS NOT USED: Goodfellow, Dargo, Kane, El Bakhtaoui, Millen.

BOOKINGS: Falkingham, Young, Geggan.

RANGERS: Bell; Faure, McCulloch, Mohsni, Wallace; Aird, Black (Crawford 78), Law, Smith (Macleod 58); Clark (Foster 69), Daly.

SUBS NOT USED: Simonsen, Peralta, Shiels, Cribari.

SCORERS: Aird 22, Clark 51, Law 70, Crawford 90.

BOOKINGS: Mohsni, Aird.

REFEREE: Craig Charleston.


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