TEN-MAN Rangers made it seven wins in a row to move to within five of the League One title as they scrapped their way to three points against Brechin.

The Light Blues were excellent in the first half as they gave one of their best 45-minute showings of the campaign and went two goals up through Dean Shiels and Jon Daly.

But after City pulled one back, Bilel Mohsni’s reckless red card left his team on the back foot for much of the rest of the contest.

In the end, Ally McCoist’s men clung on to edge the match having been so comfortable at the midway point.

They were certainly made to work for their victory against a team which has continually caused them problems this term.

Manager McCoist made one change to the side which beat Arbroath 3-2 last week and with Lewis Macleod out injured, it was a predictable one at that.

Having made a big impact as a substitute and scored against both the Red Lichties and Forfar before them, David Templeton came in on the left flank.

Gers were keen to start much better than they had in their previous outing, when they fell behind to Paul Sheerin’s Gayfield outfit after just 85 seconds.

And their approach from the off here was much better as the busy Templeton and Shiels were behind a lot of the positive play they displayed early on.

Prior to taking the lead after 13 minutes, keeper Graeme Smith had got down well to save well from each of those players.

Daly had also been denied when, after getting on the end of a lovely teasing cross from Templeton, he somehow had his header stopped on the line then cleared.

The hosts were piling on pressure and a terrific through ball from Mohsni released Lee Wallace who crossed for Daly, only for Gerry McLauchlan to nick the ball away from him.

His intervention only delayed the inevitable and when Shiels broke the deadlock, he did so with a mirror image of his goal against Brechin back in August.

Whereas he’d bent the ball into the top right corner from the left of the penalty area with his right foot back then from 15 yards, everything was the opposite way around this time.

And after Sebastien Faure’s run into the mix came to an abrupt halt, the Northern Ireland international stepped in to notch his fourth goal of the campaign.

Where Shiels was showing himself to be in the mood, so too was Templeton and he curled a lovely hanging shot just beyond the far post soon after.

Nicky Law was also kept out by Smith before a foul on him led to the second goal on the 25-minute mark, though who claimed it appears debatable.

Wallace took the free kick and when it ended up in the back of the net, Daly was credited with getting the merest of touches on it.

He ran straight to the Scotland international to celebrate though with Ian Black and was clearly keen to emphasise the quality of his delivery.

There were chances to make it three before the break, with Templeton, Shiels and Daly all coming close but failing to add to the tally.

Unsurprisingly, McCoist kept faith with the same 11 players he had selected initially for the restart.

The onslaught continued too, with Daly’s header being deflected wide, Fraser Aird’s shot blocked and Shiels putting the ball past just as he was flagged offside.

Aird took possession from Faure too and rampaged upfield, sending a raking drive inches wide with a fine individual attempt.

What came next wasn’t expected at all as Brechin – who came from 2-0 down to beat Dunfermline last week – pulled a goal back.

It was a stunning strike at that as Steven Robb took control of a loose ball and unleashed a rising 25-yarder beyond Cammy Bell.

Rangers’ reaction was decent, with Templeton curling across goal and just past the far post as he tried to restore the two-goal cushion.

Smith got another good hand to a firm Wallace grasscutter and Daly’s header went behind as he was always leaning back trying to connect.

But just as it looked like the hosts might extend their advantage again, they lost a man instead as Mohsni – booked in the first half – was sent off.

His dismissal was clumsy as he kicked the ball away after referee Stevie O’Reilly had blown his whistle to stop play and it left Gers needing a tactical reshuffle.

Shiels was withdrawn, Richard Foster came on at right-back and Faure pulled into the middle to fill the void left by Mohsni.

To their credit, the Light Blues continued pressing forward and Smith made another excellent stop to keep out Daly with 20 minutes left.

Law should also have scored after doing so well to get away from two men on the right and making a scoring opportunity for himself.

He cut back instead to Daly though and by the time he slid the ball on to Templeton, the chance had become harder and the winger fired over.

Law almost made up for that with a spectacular chest down and flat volley but his shot rattled a yard off target.

Brechin tried to hit on the break and nearly did it perfectly as substitutes Derek Carcary and Robert Thomson combined, with the latter just failing to touch his team-mates cross in.

Andy Jackson had a go as well with a header but Foster was in the right place to clear just before the line.

Things were becoming fraught and you could feel the tension around the stadium as fans waited for a pivotal moment which would decide which way the game would go.

In the end it never came and there was tangible relief all around as the final whistle finally blew to ensure Gers have still dropped just two points in 2013/14.

RANGERS: Bell; Faure, McCulloch, Mohsni, Wallace; Aird (Peralta 89), Black, Law, Templeton (Little 74); Shiels (Foster 63), Daly.

SUBS NOT USED: Simonsen, Crawford, Smith, Murdoch.

SCORERS: Shiels 13, Daly 25

BOOKING: Mohsni.

SENT OFF: Mohsni.

BRECHIN CITY: Smith; McLean, Hay, McLauchlan, Brown; Ferguson (Thomson 74), Robb (Carcary 60), Walker (Molloy 67), Petrie, Barr; A Jackson.

SUBS NOT USED: Nelson, S Jackson, Moyes.

SCORER: Robb 51.

BOOKINGS: McLean, Petrie.

REFEREE: Stevie O’Reilly.


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