DESPITE producing a fine performance and dominating the match from start to finish, a young Rangers side were beaten by Ross County in the Development League this afternoon at the Hummel Training Centre.
County sat just three points behind league-leading Gers with two games in hand in the Reserve League table going into this one, and right from the off, both teams made it a hell of a battle to try to ensure it was them leading the way come full-time.
Indeed, the lively Liam Burt came close to opening the scoring inside 30 seconds for the hosts, latching onto a Jamie Barjonas through ball before being denied by goalkeeper Ross Munro at his near post.
Some excellent Josh McPake skill led to him firing in a ball for Danny Finlayson, with the big centre-half only able to volley the cross over before McPake himself saw a shot blocked from a central area after being set up by Cammy Palmer.
A slip in the County defence then allowed McPake in again – he fed Stephen Kelly but his shot from just inside the area was weak and easily gathered by Munro.
Then, against the run of play, the visitors took the lead.
Gers missed a couple of opportunities to clear a loose set-piece before the ball finally broke the way of Ben Johnstone to slam the ball home from close range.
Indeed, ‘keeper Kieran Wright prevented the score from going to 2-0 with a decent stop from Mark Gallagher before McPake ended the half with another opportunity, collecting a superb Jordan Houston ball and rounding Munro before only finding the side netting.
Into the second half, and again, Burt came close with a 25-yard curling effort which Munro did superbly to touch around the post for a corner.
The chances really were starting to mount for Gers, and Burt was denied a tap-in at close-range from a Barjonas cross with an excellent block, before the same fate befell Matty Shiels from similar distance just seconds later.
Munro made another excellent save from Kelly on the spin inside the area before Gers were awarded a penalty with Jack Murray handling inside the area.
Up stepped Houston to take, with his effort to the left of goal superbly turned away once again by the seemingly unbeatable Munro.
Then on 61 minutes, again completely against the run of play, County hit the post through Ross MacIver after he had rounded Wright.
Finally, on 66 minutes, Rangers pressure told on County with the equaliser.
A mazy run from McPake took him into the area, and while his effort on goal was blocked, finally Gers got some luck with the rebound falling for Houston to ram into the back of the net to make up for his earlier missed penalty.
Wright was called upon to make a point-blank save from James Wallace while Barjonas released McPake to go one-on-one with Munro, with the goalkeeper coming out on top as the game became more stretched.
And as they began to threaten more, County were awarded a penalty with seven minutes left to play.
Declan Hughes was felled by Houston inside the area, and despite the Gers full-back appearing to get a clean connection on the ball, the referee pointed to the spot with Ross Stewart sending Wright the wrong way.
A last-gasp Shiels free-kick was held by Munro as County headed back up the A9 with all three points.
RANGERS: Wright; Houston, Mayo (O’Connor, 75) Finlayson, Breen (Shiels, 45); Williamson (Miller, 88), Palmer, Barjonas (Balde, 83); Kelly (Maxwell, 75), McPake, Burt.
SUBS NOT USED: Hogarth, Yates.