ANDY DALLAS grabbed a hat-trick as Rangers hammered Kilmarnock, their nearest challengers in the Reserve League this afternoon to maintain top spot in the table.
The watching Steven Gerrard allowed Borna Barisic, Nikola Katic and Lee Wallace some game-time in the rout where the Light Blues led 4-0 at the interval thanks to an Andy Dallas double as well as single strikes from Dapo Mebude and a Jordan Houston penalty.
Dallas then completed his hat-trick and the rout with a fine finish in the second half.
There was a real intensity and determination from Graeme Murty’s side right from the off, and inside two minutes, they were awarded a penalty kick.
Mebude was upended by Euan Deveney inside the area for a clear foul, and up-stepped Houston to add a goal to his recent good run of form, slamming the ball low to the right of goalkeeper Curtis Lyle.
On the left, Barisic was playing some lovely stuff as he steps-up his return from injury, and a super cross from the full-back was headed just wide by Liam Burt soon afterwards.
He then combined with his fellow Croatian, Nikola Katic, from a free-kick down on the left, but he too was off-target with his effort on goal.
The traffic was only ever heading in one direction, and the second goal arrived on 29 minutes. A through ball from Houston was wonderfully dummied by Dallas to allow the excellent Mebude to escape through on goal and finish confidently beyond Lyle.
10 minutes later, it was three for rampant Rangers. This time Mebude was the provider for Dallas with a super ball to split the visiting defence, and while Lyle saved the initial effort from Dallas, the ball somehow squirmed under him and there to blast home his spill was the striker.
Dallas should have had his second as Mebude again played him in only for his shot to go wildly over the bar, though he wasn’t to be denied for long.
On the stroke of half-time, Stephen Kelly picked the ball up in the middle of the park, puffed out his chest and set course for goal. With Killie getting men back, he split their defensive block with a super through-ball for Dallas to again rifle the ball beyond Lyle.
It could have been five in stoppage-time at the end of the half, with Barisic and Katic again combining, with the latter again heading wide of target in what was Barisic’s last action of the match.
The second half continued with Gers still well on-top, and only a last-ditch clearance on the line prevented Liam Burt from adding to the scoring early-on.
Lyle then saved well from Dallas after forcing him wide on the end of an excellent through ball from Josh McPake but the two then combined on 71 minutes for goal number five.
McPake charged forward and picked the gap in the defence for Dallas, and he steadied himself before picking the bottom corner to complete his hat-trick and seal another win for the Light Blues.
RANGERS: McCrorie; Houston (Patterson, 45), Katic (Shiels, 68), Wallace, Barisic (Finlayson, 45); Palmer, Kelly, McPake (Gray, 84); Mebude, Dallas, Burt.
SUBS NOT USED: McAdams, Maxwell, McKee.