RANGERS take on Celtic this Saturday in the League Cup semi final at Hampden Park – but how did the Gers negotiate their way through?
RANGERS picked up their second win of the season as they coasted to a straight forward victory over Annan Athletic in the BetFred Cup group stages.
The League Two outfit were brushed aside by a classy Light Blues display and the two goal win probably flattered the part-timers.
Mark Warburton’s side have a full complement of points in Group F after a stunning first-half strike from Barrie McKay was added to by a neatly worked goal from Martyn Waghorn as they picked the visitors off.
Waghorn was the first to pounce for the Gers, cutting inside on five minutes to try and curl a shot beyond Blair Currie. Two Annan men threw themselves into the direction of the ball and the clearance fell to the striker but he couldn’t steer it home.
Two minutes later Michael O’Halloran turned on electric pace to by-pass the Annan defence, drop a shoulder and whizz a ball across the face of goal. Josh Windass was ready to pounce at the near post but the superb pass was snuffed out before he could apply the finishing touches.
Just shy of 20 minutes Rangers put together two brilliant chances to try and break the deadlock. First Andy Halliday looped a cute ball over the top, which landed with Waghorn six yards out. The striker controlled superbly in the air to lift it over the keeper but Annan’s defence managed to scoop it away.
Then a short corner profited in Lee Hodson having an aerial effort cleared off the line. Windass picked up the ball to drive along the by-line and angle a cross onto the oncoming defender’s head, who was storming in from the right.
Moments later Lee Wallace went close as he snuck in from the left but once again the visitors managed to save themselves in last gasp fashion. With 25 minutes gone it was all Rangers.
Windass was felled, as he turned on the pace across field, to win a free-kick in perfect poaching distance. Niko Kranjcar stepped up looking for an Ibrox opener but his curling effort brushed the roof of the net.
With half an hour played McKay opened the scoring in spectacular fashion as he drifted in from the left to pick the ball up outside the box. The winger unleashed a swerving bullet of a shot which flew beyond Currie, outwitting the keeper, and taking the back of the net off.
Windass combined with Wallace five minutes before the break and elected to go it alone rather than return it to his captain. He darted inside from the left and eyed up the shot. Currie had to be quick to smother the low drilled shot and deny the 22-year-old his first Gers goal.
Starting at right-back Hodson had clearly received instructions from James Tavernier that full-backs score at Rangers. The debutant picked up a short corner at the edge of the D and thundered a half volley goalwards from distance – once again the keeper scrambled to save.
But the Northern Irishman wasn’t happy with that and tried his luck again seconds later. Kranjcar could have shot but chose to pick out Windass in the box, he laid it off to O’Halloran and he teed up Hodson. Storming in from deep on the left flank he took it with his first touch and Currie was forced to tip the powerful effort around the far post.
Annan started the second-half with some intent and when Rob Kiernan brought down William Robertson 25 yards out they tried their best to profit. Rabin Omar took the resulting free-kick, dipping a decent effort towards Matt Gilks’ goal but it soared past the far post.
McKay was at it again as he broke away down the left to fire a lively ball across goal, hoping to catch the run of Waghorn. Currie had to commit and parry the ball away before the striker, who was lingering on the other side of him, latched on.
Wallace should have been rewarded with a goal after a superb silky move from the left. McKay threaded a ball in behind Waghorn and he executed a perfect back heel to play the left-back in. The 28-year-old took the shot on first time and fired just inches wide of the base of the post.
Waghorn and Wallace combined again with 54 minutes played, slicing through the Annan team with accuracy. The forward found a channel to play in Wallace as he broke away but again his shot was saved.
Rangers kept coming and McKay quickly switched feet to play Waghorn in down his left side – the striker fired one across the face of goal but his effort was thwarted.
Kranjcar and Windass then had chances. First Windass passed into the feet of the Croatian so he could open up his body and try and curl a shot around the keeper. Then the former Accrington boy scrambled to get his feet to a fizzing O’Halloran ball from the right, caught in a melee in the face of goal.
That was to be the duo’s final involvement in the game as Warburton rung the changes on the hour mark to bring on Joey Barton, Kenny Miller and Harry Forrester. Goalscorer McKay joined them for a rest as Ibrox applauded.
Barton nearly had the golden touch with his first touch. He weighed up his options with a free-kick out on the left and then swung a right foot through the ball, sending the set-piece fractions wide of the upright.
Miller sprang into action on 70 minutes, Halliday threading him in with a neat ball through the middle. The striker collected his stride and sent a snapshot at the keeper from close range but it was straight at Currie.
Rangers doubled their lead through Waghorn with 17 minutes left to play, as referee Euan Anderson elected to wave play on. Halliday had all but been taken out by Adam Asghar deep in the Rangers half but the advantage led to Hodson picking the ball up at right-back. The new arrival ran into a sea of bodies to cut the Annan defence in half and place a ball at Waghorn’s feet. The striker was tidy and slotted the ball beyond Currie.
Halliday recovered but was brought down heavily yet again out on the right flank. Forrester tried something inventive and whipped a free-kick in behind the visitors’ defence which Miller pounced on to try and steer home.
Rangers continued to turn the screw but couldn’t come up with a third as they enjoyed all the possession to round the evening off.
RANGERS: Gilks, Hodson, Hill, Kiernan, Wallace, Halliday, Windass (Forrester 60’), Kranjcar (Barton 60’), O’Halloran, Waghorn, McKay (Miller 60’)
Subs not used: Foderingham, Tavernier, Wilson, Holt
ANNAN ATHLETIC: Currie, Black, Lucas, Krissian, Swinglehurst, Cuddihy, Omar, Robertson (Asghar 69’), McKenna, Wright, Ribeiro (Park 45’)
Subs not used: Mitchell, Norman, Watson, Dachnowicz, Liddell