RANGERS have regained their five point gap at the top of League One but they had to work hard for their 1-0 win over Forfar Athletic at Station Park.
Andy Little’s strike of 42 minutes was enough give the Light Blues their third away victory of the league campaign but it was far from a comfortable afternoon for the visitors who struggled to hit top form throughout a frustrating 90 minutes.
With Lee Wallace passing a fitness test at Murray Park yesterday the club’s vice-captain slotted in at left back in a 4-4-2 formation for kick off. Lewis Macleod, however, did not travel to Angus as he continues to recover from a knee injury.
The first half of this contest was largely disappointing with not a lot of quality football played on Forfar’s 3G pitch and few goalscoring chances created aside from Little’s goal.
On five minutes a low cross from Gavin Swankie on the left made its way through to Omar Kader but his shot went over Cammy Bell’s cross bar as he stretched to make contact.
Lee McCulloch then had to go off for treatment after he appeared to get his studs stuck in the plastic turf when going in for a tackle on Chris Templeman. Thankfully the skipper jogged tentatively back on after a physio Steve Walker had worked his magic.
The visitors, however, were finding it tough going with Forfar’s experienced backline that featured Darren Dods and former Ibrox star Marvin Andrews – with a combined age of 75 – soaking up any pressure and Loons keeper Darren Hill being tested from crosses rather than shots.
Wallace was Rangers’ main threat on the left as he pushed forward on the left but it took until the 21st minutes for the Light Blues to have their first real attempt on goal.
A Peralta corner dropped to McCulloch in the box but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot which was blocked and then cleared.
Despite the sweltering heat there was also a swirling wind within the ground which made it tough for both sets of players when the ball was in the air.
Before the break, however, Rangers made the breakthrough and it was a tidy finish from Little who dinked the ball over Hill after he was found by Templeton.
Forfar boss Dick Campbell was raging at his side’s defending for the goal with Dods producing a dodgy clearance and Little given plenty of space to pick his spot.
Into the second half and Forfar immediately showed their intent when a powerful drive from 25 yards from Dale Hilson narrowly missed the top corner of Bell’s net.
Campbell must have been happy with his side’s positive start to the second period but on 55 minutes Rangers had a great chance to double their advantage when Little found Daly in the box but Hill did well to come off his line and make a block with his body.
After the hour mark Rangers continued in their search for a second goal and on 64 minutes Law forced his way into the 18-yard box and looked up as though he was about to shoot. He cut inside with a clever drag back and his delicate chip went inches over the bar.
With the scoreline still sitting at 1-0 Forfar were never out of this contest and the Rangers players, wearing the club’s back third kit, had to stay focused or risk dropping unnecessary points. This was highlighted on 74 minutes when Templeton cleared a close range shot from Dods off the goal line.
In the end Rangers held on to claim the three points on offer with Mohsni coming close to finding the net in the latter stages but the French-Tunisian’s header from a Peralta free-kick went wide.
Law then narrowly missed the target after Forfar sub Gavin Malin powered a drive over Bell’s bar. It was nervy stuff in the final three minutes of injury time but Rangers will travel back to Glasgow with their 100 per cent record intact and knowing they can play a lot better than they did this afternoon.
FORFAR (4-5-1): Hill; McCabe, Dods, Andrews, Baxter; Kader (Campbell 59), Dale (McManus 79), Campbell, Swankie, Hilson; Templeman (Malin 64)
Subs: Malcolm, Fusco, Gray, Douglas, Campbell
Booked: Templeman, McCabe, Campbell
RANGERS (4-4-2): Bell; Foster, Mohsni, McCulloch, Wallace; Little, Peralta, Law, Smith (Faure 79); Templeton (McKay 81), Daly
Subs: Simonsen,Cribari, Crawford, Shiels, Clark
REF: John McKendrick