RANGERS RESERVES fought back from going a goal down against Dunfermline Athletic to earn a point in the SPFL Reserve League at New Central Park in Kelty.
A quiet first half came to life as Dunfermline went ahead on 30 minutes through Callum Smith’s penalty before Joao Balde levelled only four minutes later for the visiting Gers. The Ibrox side looked the most likely to grab all three points in the second half but it wasn’t to be and the league clash ended 1-1.
With Jordan Houston, Stephen Kelly and Lewis Mayo all on international duty for Scotland U19s over in Spain, Graeme Murty was forced into a few changes from the Reserves’ last outing in the 1-1 draw with St Johnstone.
The likes of Balde, Nathan Patterson, Rhys Breen and Ben Williamson were handed starts alongside regulars like captain Cammy Palmer and Josh McPake.
The first half saw little opportunities for either side in the first half an hour, Rangers slightly edging it in terms of possession but struggling to carve a clear-cut opening for themselves.
The opening goal arrived in the 30th minute as the Pars took the lead through a penalty, McPake fouling just inside the box and Smith sent Kieran Wright the wrong way with his spot-kick for 1-0.
Rangers’ response was good. They looked bothered at conceding first and looked to quickly get back on level terms and they did just four minutes later. Mebude proved elusive just inside the six-yard box, looking up to find Balde with a cutback and he finished clinically from close range to equalise for the Gers.
Murty’s side went close again after 43 minutes on the clock, McPake whipping in a tantalising cross from a dead ball on the left flank and narrowly missing Aidan Wilson’s diving header attempt around the penalty spot.
At half-time, centre-back Wilson was replaced by James Maxwell with the latter slotting in at left-back, Daniel Finlayson partnering Breen in the middle and Patterson moving to right-back.
With the second half ten minutes old, Gers stopper Wright was forced into an impressive save to prevent the Pars from retaking the lead. A corner kick from the left was floated in and Dunfermline skipper Stuart Morrison met the cross with a header directed at goal, Wright getting down to his left very well to block the effort.
On 65 minutes Mebude saw a powerful drive go narrowly wide as Rangers searched for a second goal. Good pressure resulted in a shot being blocked and midfielder Williamson collected it before setting up forward Mebude on the edge of the area. His strong hit with the outside of his boot deflected off a defender and went just by the ‘keeper’s right-hand post for a corner.
Shortly after it was Mebude going close once more and this time it looked a certain goal. Rangers worked the ball wide to the right side for Patterson, who produced a dangerous cross into the 18-yard box to find Mebude, who stretched to connect with the ball with his right foot but sent his effort wide of the goal.
With around ten minutes left to play it looked like only one team were going to find a winner and it was Rangers. The next opportunity for Rangers fell to Liam Burt. The creative youngster took a corner from the right side that resulted in some head tennis on the edge and just inside the box as both sets of players scrambled for it. The ball eventually broke to Burt, right of the D, and he hit a half volley first time but his effort sailed just over the crossbar.
With a few minutes remaining, Murty made two changes with Balde and McPake coming off for Kieran McKechnie and Cole McKinnon.
Burt again looked a danger in the closing stages as he tested Cammy Gill in the Pars goal. He was played through down the right side and he burst onto the pass at speed, before hitting his shot at goal, but the advancing Gill stood tall to palm it to his left side for a corner.
With the last action of the game, a corner was playing in high and deep to the back post where Breen got a head to the ball and it appeared to come off the defender’s arm, but the referee ignored the protests of several Gers players to blow for full-time in Kelty.
RANGERS: Kieran Wright, Daniel Finlayson, Aidan Wilson, Rhys Breen, Nathan Patterson, Cameron Palmer (c), Ben Williamson, Joao Balde, Liam Burt, Dapo Mebude, Josh McPake.
SUBS: Nicky Hogarth, Harris O’Connor, James Maxwell, Jay Mack, Kieran McKechnie, Cole McKinnon.