NICKY CLARK took just 29 seconds to score his first goal for Rangers as Ally McCoist’s men ran out comfortable 5-0 winners against East Fife at Ibrox.
The 22-year-old striker, making his competitive debut for the Light Blues, latched on to a Lee McCulloch flick on and after easing past a defender he found the corner of the net with an accurate left foot finish.
Having waited patiently for his chance to play because of the club’s transfer embargo it was a moment to savour for the number nine who slid to his knees to celebrate in front of The Blue Order in the Broomloan Stand.
The sensational early strike was just the start Clark and his team-mates were after and they went on to hit four more with man-of-the-match Lee McCulloch netting the first hat-trick of his career while Lewis Macleod’s 25-yard volley was from the top drawer.
Rangers have now scored 18 goals in their four league victories this season and with all eight of McCoist’s new signings available for selection from tomorrow the SFL3 champions will only get stronger as stage two of The Journey continues.
With Jon Daly and Andy Little ruled out this afternoon it was Clark and McCulloch that formed a terrific partnership in attack and at the other end of the pitch Cammy Bell, also making his competitive debut, put in a confident display.
Two minutes after Clark had given his side an early lead Bell dived low to his right to make an excellent stop from Cedric Tuta.
It was certainly a lively start to the match and with not even 10 minutes played Clark should have been on target again. Lee Wallace produced a marauding run down the left and when he cut the ball back Clark could only hit the side netting with his first time shot from six yards.
Wallace was again in excellent form throughout this 90 minutes and he was the architect for both of McCulloch’s goals in the first half which took the score to 3-0 at the interval.
For Rangers’ second on 16 minutes the powerful left back curled in a delightful cross and with East Fife’s keeper Michael Andrews running from his line to punch the ball away Jig nipped in to glance a brave header into the empty net.
The third was similar with the club’s vice-captain and captain combining brilliantly on 36 minutes. Wallace again found space on the left and his pinpoint delivery found McCulloch who nodded the ball gleefully in from close range.
The first half provided plenty of entertainment for the 42,870 fans in the stadium and East Fife played their part with the forward line of Tuta and Liam Buchanan keeping the Rangers defenders on their toes.
With a three-goal lead in place at half-time it would have been easy for Rangers to down tools but with McCoist pacing around his technical area there was to be no repeat of the recent trip to Stranraer when the second half display was considerably poorer than the first.
On 54 minutes Rangers made it 4-0 and it was a moment of class from Scotland under-21 ace Macleod. An East Fife defender headed a Robbie Crawford cross out to the midfielder who, after taking a neat touch, unleashed a sensational volley from 25 yards into the top corner of Andrews’ net.
The Rangers players were now enjoying their afternoon’s work and with the sun shining down on the lush Ibrox turf McCulloch completed his hat-trick of headers with 62 minutes on the clock.
It was right back Kyle McAusland this time that provided a perfect cross for his team-mate who powered the ball into the net with Andrews’ diving helplessly to his left.
With youngsters Andy Murdoch, Barrie McKay and Fraser Aird all getting second-half run outs there were plenty of positives to take from this game and all five goals were executed superbly by Clark, McCulloch and Macleod.
But overall this was another excellent team performance from Rangers who were led brilliantly today by their inspirational skipper who applauded the Ibrox faithful as he grabbed the match ball and made his way up the tunnel.
RANGERS (4-4-2): Bell; McAusland, Cribari, Faure, Wallace; Crawford, Black (Murdoch 69), Macleod, Templeton (McKay 62); McCulloch, Clark (Aird 79)
SUBS NOT USED: Gallacher, Shiels, Gasparotto, Telfer
GOALS: Clark 1, McCulloch 17, 36, 62 Macleod 54
EAST FIFE (5-4-1): Andrews; Dutot (McBride 47), Thom, Neilson, Mbu, Johnstone; Brown, Willis, J. Stewart, Tuta (Clarke 79); Buchanan (Austin 60)
SUBS NOT USED: Paterson, Moosari, Barr, R. Stewart
BOOKED: Tuta, J. Stewart, Johnstone, Thom
REF: Alan Muir