RANGERS RESERVES earned a comfortable win over Hamilton Accies this afternoon to take a three-goal advantage over Celtic into the final day of the season.
The Old Firm duo are both tied on 35 points with each having one more game to play, and while Hibs are also level on 35 points and top on goal difference, they have now played all of their 17 matches.
The Light Blues will travel to Falkirk for their final game, with the date for that to be confirmed in due course, knowing victory and a failure for Celtic to overhaul their three-goal advantage will seal the title.
Glenn Middleton has shown fantastic form in the Reserve side in recent weeks, and it was he who fashioned the first chance after six minutes, cutting in from the right wing and bringing a decent stop out of Ryan Fulton in the Accies goal.
From the resulting corner, however, the opening goal arrived with Middleton the provider. It was he who played a quick corner from the right, with Cammy Palmer meeting his ball along the ground at the front post before Palmer deftly lobbed the ball over Fulton for the ideal start.
Jamie Barjonas could have made it 2-0 soon afterwards, firing a Harris O’Connor ball wide of the target from around 12-yards out, while a Middleton free-kick from 25-yards clipped the top of the bar.
O’Connor himself had an effort from just outside the area go just wide after good work from Palmer in midfield, and Palmer forced Fulton into another save with another effort from beyond the 18-yard line.
If another goal was going to come, it surely had to fall for the home side, and indeed it did on 38 minutes from the head of Andy Dallas at the end of a super move.
Ross McCrorie’s excellent through ball was flicked into the path of marauding full-back Matty Shiels by Jamie Barjonas, and Shiels’ super cross was met by Dallas at the front post to flick a header into the far top corner.
It was almost just before the interval as Stephen Kelly’s cross evaded Barjonas and Palmer before being sent high over the bar by O’Connor from 20-yards out, and then Barjonas himself had an effort from way, way out which cannoned off the base of the post.
Then, in injury time at the end of the half, Accies pulled one back with their first real sight of goal in the entire game as Jamie Hamilton nodded home a corner at the back post.
Andy Dallas had another opportunity at the start of the second half, profiting from an Accies slip to run in on goal, though goalkeeper Fulton did well to close the angle.
But on 54 minutes, Gers re-established their two-goal cushion with Jamie Barjonas catching out Fulton with a good effort from 25-yards out on the left which found the top corner.
Two minutes later, it was 4-1, Glenn Middleton working an angle excellently on the edge of the box by dropping the shoulder and then rifling the ball into the bottom corner.
A flurry of changes late-on altered the pattern of the game, and one of them, John Balde came close to a fifth in injury time with Fulton getting down to clutch his attempted shot at his near post.
RANGERS: Wright; O’Connor (Yates, 78), Mayo, Breen, Shiels; McCrorie (McKechnie, 60), Palmer (Butterworth, 73), Barjonas (McKinnon, 78); Kelly, Middleton (Balde, 60), Dallas.
SUB NOT USED: Hogarth.
HAMILTON: Fulton, McCann, Sowah, Stanger, Tshiembe, Hamilton, Reilly, Mimnaugh, Slaven, Boyd, Winter.
SUBS: Wilson, Morrison, Munro, Joseph, Scullion, Smith.
REFEREE: Craig Napier