RANGERS got the New Year off to a superb start with their biggest win of the season at Dumbarton this afternoon to maintain their three point lead at the top of the Championship.
Kenny Miller bagged his first hat-trick in Light Blue for over five years while there were singles for Martyn Waghorn, Andy Halliday and James Tavernier in what was one of the most impressive performances from Mark Warburton’s side so far.
Following on from Monday’s high-octane and sensational 4-2 victory over Hibernian, the Light Blues began strongly and Martyn Waghorn would have been disappointed not to do better as he burst through into the box from the right wing inside the first minute thanks to a lovely Jason Holt ball, but his shot was weak and easily gathered by former Gers goalie Mark Brown.
Seconds later, terrific Barrie McKay skill saw him jink his way into the area on the opposite flank, but his eventual cross was turned behind by Darren Barr for a corner before the lively start continued with Holt testing Brown at his near post from the edge of the area.
The pressure was building all the time, and that man Holt was denied by Brown once again as his shot, albeit a weak one, was saved again after a lovely passing move involving Halliday and Tavernier before Holt was played in.
The visitors then had the ball in the net after another supreme move down the left as Tavernier sent Waghorn on his way before he interchanged with Nicky Law and although the striker finished the passage of play off, he was denied a 22nd goal of the season by the assistant referee’s offside flag.
Dumbarton were being blown away, but they very nearly had one of the most undeserved leads of the season handed to them on a plate as a ball lumped into the Rangers penalty area saw goalkeeper Wes Foderingham and central defender Rob Kiernan get in each other’s way and the ball dropped onto the head of Donald McCallum but he couldn’t direct his effort goalwards.
That was as good as it was to get for the home side in the first half with Rangers continuing their constant assault on Brown’s goal. Waghorn had another effort on goal when he latched onto a McKay cross at the back post, but this time his shot was over the bar, and only a last-ditch Frazer Wright tackle prevented Kenny Miller giving the Gers the lead before from the resultant McKay corner, Waghorn nodded down into the ground and the ball bounced up into the arms of the goalkeeper.
Some of Rangers’ football really was a joy to watch, but when the opening goal did eventually arrive three minutes before half time, it was anything but the silky soccer that had earlier been on show.
From the edge of the box, Andy Halliday clipped a superb ball over the Dumbarton defence for Kenny Miller to poke beyond Brown, in doing so however, the pair collided and then collided again on the line as Brown scrambled back before Miller eventually stabbed the ball over the line from all of a yard out.
It was no more than Rangers deserved going into the interval, but as the second half kicked-off, they were hit with a warning shot as Jon Routledge headed a cross wide of the target with goalkeeper Foderingham stranded.
Normal service soon resumed however, and after Martyn Waghorn received a superb Barrie McKay ball in the left of the penalty area, he flashed a shot across the face of the goal before Jason Holt’s day of firing shots into the arms of Mark Brown continued with yet another effort.
The chances just kept coming and going for Rangers as Kenny Miller drilled a shot from the edge of the area wide of the target before seconds later, James Tavernier headed a Waghorn cross onto the bar and while the rebound fell to the feet of Miller, he could only find the body of Brown blocking his path to goal.
And just when it began to look as if it was to be a half of frustration for Warburton’s boys, a deep Tavernier cross was met by the head of Kenny Miller on the penalty spot to plant the ball low to Brown’s left and at last extend Gers’ advantage.
And from there, those straining Dumbarton floodgates were blown open at long last.
Kenny Miller grabbed his first hat-trick in the famous Light Blue jersey since November 2010 as he finished another Tavernier assist with aplomb past Brown as the home side struggled to cope with Rangers’ outstanding play.
The ever-superb Waghorn looked to have won a penalty after going down under a Frazer Wright tackle inside the area, but much to the surprise of everyone inside the stadium, referee Craig Charleston opted to book the striker for simulation rather than point to the spot.
Nicky Law then fired an effort over the bar from the corner of the six-yard box as Gers threatened to run riot, and that threat became all the greater as Waghorn did indeed net his 22nd goal of the season with 19 minutes left to make it 4-0.
The outstanding Tavernier made it a hat-trick of assists with his cutback into the striker’s path, and he made no mistake with a thumping finish beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
After Waghorn won a free-kick on the edge of the box with 10 minutes left, it looked as if Tavernier was going to take his chance to cap a wonderful afternoon with yet another set-piece goal, but he left the ball for Andy Halliday to strike, and with the aid of a massive deflection, the ball looped up and into the top corner of the net.
Tavernier was to get his goal however, and when it arrived, it truly was a thing of beauty. Rangers broke at pace from inside their own half through Waghorn and he sprayed the ball wide for sub Gedion Zelalem who in-turn fed Tavernier 25-yards from goal to slew a superb effort into the top corner.
It truly was a wonderful performance from Rangers, and if this is a taste of what’s to come in 2016 for the Light Blues, then bring it on!
RANGERS (4-3-3): Foderingham, Tavernier, Wilson, Kiernan, Wallace, Halliday, Holt (Shiels, 69), Law (Zelalem, 71), Waghorn, McKay, Miler (Clark, 69).
SUBS: Kelly, Aird, Shiels, Clark, Zelalem, Oduwa, Thompson.
DUMBARTON: Brown, Taggart, Docherty, Cawley, Gallagher, Fleming, Barr (Buchanan, 55), McCallum (Kirkpatrick, 61), Routledge, Lindsay, Wright.
SUBS: Craig, Waters, Brown, Cunningham, Ewings.
REFEREE: Craig Charleston