RANGERS got their Glasgow Cup campaign underway in style with a demolition of Partick Thistle at Lesser Hampden this afternoon.
After falling behind early-on, doubles from Dapo Mebude and Andy Dallas as well as single strikes from Stephen Kelly and Andy Dallas completed a fine win for the Light Blues.
Graeme Murty and Peter Lovenkrands named an exceptionally young side to face the Jags despite players being born as late as 1999 being eligible to play in the Glasgow Cup this season.
There were spots for 2002-born players Harris O’Connor and Kai Kennedy, and 2001 players Josh McPake and Dapo Mebude in the starting XI, while Leon King, born in 2004, made the bench for Gers.
On what was a bitterly cold day Queens’ Park’s impressive Lesser Hampden ground, a slow start from the ‘visitors’ allowed Thistle to go ahead early-on.
A corner from Andy Rodden out on the left wasn’t dealt with by Gers, and Ruaridh McIntyre got himself free to bullet a header home from close range on just seven minutes.
It was far from the ideal start, but the concession of that strike seemed to kick the Light Blues into life. Firstly, a fine ball across the face of goal from Jordan Houston was crying out for a touch, but no blue jersey could get there to get the crucial final touch.
Andy Dallas was then so close to latching onto a long ball from goalkeeper Aidan McAdams only for Thistle to somehow get a block on his shot when he seemed destined to score.
But on 21 minutes, the equaliser came from the lively Mebude. A searching ball from Kai Kennedy looked to be cleared by Jags’ keeper Jamie Stevenson just inside his area, but he got very little on the ball and it broke kindly for Mebude to slot the ball into the back of the net.
It was the break Gers needed, and from there they really began to motor. Twice Stevenson had to save well as Houston and Dallas created openings, before Mebude showed some outrageous skill on the right to ghost past his man and fire across goal, with Dallas just inches away from connecting.
Gers really should have been ahead at the interval, but they took just 12 minutes of the second half to make amends.
As Daniel Conner tried to play out with the ball, Mebude caught him in possession around 35-yards from goal. After driving forward, he had Dallas to his left waiting for a tap-in, but instead he went himself and thundered a drive beyond Stevenson from an acute angle from just inside the area.
Soon after, it was 3-1. From his own half, the outstanding Houston drove forward and just kept going and going, powering away from his markers before cutting inside along the 18-yard line.
He looked certain to go himself, but instead laid the ball off for Stephen Kelly who unleashed a beautiful, curling effort beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
Full of confidence, the goals were starting to flow and substitute Liam Burt claimed number four on 75 minutes. Houston again was the provider with a super ball into the six-yard box, and Burt gambled with a break forward and was rewarded as he tapped home from close range to seal the win.
Up-front, Dallas had put in some shift and really deserved a goal, but Stevenson denied him with a fine save after he worked his way in-behind the ‘home’ defence, but he wasn’t to have a goalless afternoon.
With seven minutes left, more fine work from Mebude saw him get to the by-line, and he cut the ball back for Dallas who just couldn’t miss from a yard out.
The 90th minute then saw Burt grab his second of the game. Having just come off the bench, young Chris McKee burst down the right and found Dallas at the front–post.
The striker spun wonderfully and found the incoming Burt to blast home the sixth and final goal of the match from close-range.
RANGERS: McAdams; Houston, Finlayson, O’Connor, Shiels, Kelly, Palmer, McPake (Burt, 61) Mebude, Dallas, Kennedy (King, 84).
SUBS NOT USED: Hogarth, Gray, Williamson, Patterson.