TWO late goals gave Rangers their first three points of the Championship season as Lewis Macleod and Nicky Clark secured victory against Falkirk.

Off the back of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Hearts in their SPFL opener at Ibrox, the Light Blues were short of their best for much of this game.

Indeed, it was only when they finally took a lead through Macleod after 77 long minutes that they displayed much confidence.

Nevertheless, their determination outweighed their poise on the night and was enough to get them off the mark at the end of a scrappy night at Westfield.

Manager Ally McCoist will concede his players still have some way to go to reach the levels he is seeking.

But he’ll be pleased their perseverance and strong finish to the contest sends them into Monday’s Petrofac Training Cup tie with Clyde on the right footing.

Rangers were roared on by more than 3,000 travelling fans but having lost late on to the Jambos, they made a shaky start here too.

Darren McGregor, playing at right-back in place of the injured Richard Foster, was caught out a couple of times early on.

But Cammy Bell did just enough to bail him out on the first occasion, with the returning Bilel Mohsni more robust in the tackle second time around.

The Bairns took a lift from the hesitancy they saw at the back from their opponents and continued to pour forward.

One shot from Blair Alston flashed just wide while another was blocked by Lee Wallace after Kris Boyd’s clearing header at a corner had landed at his feet.

Back came Gers, with Mohsni’s nodded effort needing a deflection to take it back off target and over the bar.

David Templeton’s crisp, low drive from 25 yards flew at pace from his right foot but also shot fractionally wide.

Play dipped a little before two more mistakes at the back nearly cost the away side, with McGregor recovering well to clear from Alston after an initial slip.

Mohsni also held his hands up to supporters in apology after a poor header back to Bell then a good tackle to turn the ball behind before Alex Cooper could pounce.

McCoist’s men took time to find their rhythm and too often their passing was disjointed and lacking direction.

Even when they caught sight of goal, their finishing wasn’t as convincing as it could have been and Nicky Law drove wide with little else open to him 35 yards out.

When Mohsni later put a half volley well over because he was leaning back too much, it summed up the way the game was panning out.

The Bairns ended the half far better and Alston had two more opportunities – one grasscutter than ran past and a header Bell did well to hold – but couldn’t score.

Falkirk made a sprightly start to the second period and as Gers grew more frustrated, it took two wonder saves from Bell to keep them level.

First he got across ever so well to claw a Cooper free kick away from under his crossbar for a corner with an excellent stop.

Seconds later, the keeper got down ever so well to deny David McCracken when he got a header on target from the following corner.

Rangers were on the ropes and home manager Peter Houston knew it as he surged off his bench to rouse his team further.

McCoist sensed it too and brought on Clark – a scorer of two goals in a closed-doors game against Queen of the South during the week – in a bid to change the flow of play.

He certainly helped to do that briefly and the away side really should have gone ahead just after the hour through Lee McCulloch.

But just as Mohsni had done before the break, he lifted the ball too high and his claims for a deflection on the way fell on deaf ears.

Falkirk wasted no time in trying to get back upfield and a quick free kick released ex-Gers Rory Loy down the right.

He did well to get away from Mohsni, on a booking and sure to see red if he fouled, but the striker’s cut back flashed past everyone in the box.

Play was starting to swing from end to end and Clark caught his first sight of goal when Boyd crossed for him but Jamie McDonald was in the right place to smother.

The Bairns responded well once again and Loy very nearly created another opening as Bell did well to grasp a tricky ball and clattered into the post in the process.

As time wore on, away fans were becoming more and more agitated and you could understand why as their team made hard work of getting in front.

It seemed a lucky break might be required to edge Rangers ahead and 12 minutes from the end they finally got touch of fortune they craved.

Fraser Aird, on few moments earlier for Templeton, showed great positivity as he darted out of defence up the right in possession and got to within 30 yards before cutting inside.

The teenager showed intelligence to hang on to the ball and eventually picked out Macleod, in acres of space 30 yards out.

He let fly with a shot which would normally have been held by McDonald due to the lack of pace it had.

But his attempt took a deflection off Will Vaulks and that left the keeper wrong-footed as the ball spun slowly inside the far post.

Suddenly Rangers looked threatening every time they came upfield and after a flurry of goalmouth scrambles, they went two ahead through Clark.

Law thought he’d claimed the second as he stroked a shot past McDonald from an angle on the right but poacher Clark made sure he got the final touch on the line.

With that, a fourth consecutive win over Falkirk without conceding was all but assured and although Boyd had the ball in the net too, he was flagged offside and it didn’t count.

He’ll have to wait until at least that Bully Wee clash to open his account for the season, with Gers looking to build on this result against Barry Ferguson’s side.

FALKIRK: McDonald; Maybury, Vaulks, McCracken, Dick; Alston, Taiwo, Durojaiye (Biabi 69), Cooper (Sibbald 82); Loy, McGrandles.

SUBS NOT USED: Bowman, Grant, Leahy, Shepherd, McGeever.

BOOKINGS: Maybury, Taiwo.

RANGERS: Bell; McGregor, Zaliukas, Mohsni, Wallace; Macleod, McCulloch, Law, Templeton (Aird 68); Miller (Clark 56), Boyd.

SUBS NOT USED: Simonsen, Smith, Faure, Hutton, Shiels.

SCORERS: Macleod 78, Clark 84.

BOOKINGS: Mohsni, Templeton.

REFEREE: Calum Murray.


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