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 secured their place in round two of the Betfred Cup second round this evening with an extremely comfortable victory over Stranraer at Ibrox.
Boss Mark Warburton’s side will also be seeded for the next round thanks to their 100% record in the group where they have scored 10 goals and conceded none, while there were further positives for the Light Blues to take with Niko Kranjcar getting off the mark for the club while Jordan Rossiter made his debut as a second half substitute.
Boss Warburton so often emphasises the need for his side to get off to a quick start, and they duly did, as similarly to Friday evening’s win over East Stirlingshire, they opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and again, Barrie McKay was the player the opposition found too hot to handle.
15 yards shy of the ‘D’, Joey Barton picked up the ball and sprayed a superb ball out to the left wing where McKay was waiting, and as ever, his touch was simply sublime. From there, he charged into the penalty area, skinning full-back Ross Barbour all-ends up before the former Kilmarnock man reacted by rashly bringing the Scotland internationalist down.
Referee John Beaton had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and up stepped Martyn Waghorn to score his third goal of the season, but only just, with goalkeeper Cameron Belford getting a hand to his strike.
From there, the chances began to flow for Rangers at a frightening rate. Waghorn was close to a second when he met a James Tavernier cross with his head 10 yards out from goal, but Belford was equal to it with a smart save.
Barrie McKay then had Belford scrambling again with a 25-yard drive that sneaked just wide of target before Tavernier had a similar effort from a McKay corner that Belford did well to save, but he could only push it into the path of Danny Wilson on the half-volley inside the six-yard box, but again the English goalkeeper did well to save.
It looked only to be a matter of time before the scoreboard ticked over again, and sure enough it did with Waghorn grabbing an albeit fortuitous second goal.
Capitalising on a loose backpass, in stepped the striker who rounded final defender Scott Robertson and finished beyond the reach of Belford.
Further opportunities came and went before half time for twice Harry Forrester and also McKay after another super run into the area from the wing, but the Stranraer goal suffered no further damage.
Into the second half, and Martyn Waghorn really should have completed his hat-trick within three minutes of the restart, when he met an Andy Halliday slide-rule pass across the face of goal, but he dallied on his shot allowing a combination of Steven Bell and ‘keeper Belford to clear.
Belford was soon picking the ball out of his net for a third time though as Niko Kranjcar opened his Rangers account in style. On the edge of the area from a Joey Barton short pass, he curled a sweet half-volley into the bottom left-hand corner.
It was a super finish from a player who is already becoming a firm fans’ favourite at Ibrox for his almost effortless quality at times.
The hour mark saw a trio of substitutes being made by Warburton, with Kenny Miller coming on for Barrie McKay while Joe Dodoo made his Ibrox bow for Andy Halliday and Jordan Rossiter won his club debut in place of Joey Barton.
But while much of the attention from the Ibrox faithful was on the new lads, they were nearly upstaged by Kenny Miller who raced onto a Forrester through ball, took a lovely first touch while under real pressure from Frank McKeown inside the area before being denied a terrific goal by another excellent Belford save.
Miller came close again soon after as he got on the end of a Tavernier cross six-yards from goal, but Forrester got in his way and his effort slipped wide of the target.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace; Barton (Rossiter, 64), Halliday (Dodoo, 64) Kranjcar; Forrester, Waghorn, McKay (Miller, 64).
SUBS NOT USED: Gilks, Hill, Hodson, O’Halloran.
STRANRAER: Belford, Robertson, Dick, McKeown, Barbour (Turner, 45), Bell, Agnew, McGuigan (Morena, 75), Thomson, Gibson, Nade (Malcolm, 45).
SUBS NOT USED: Currie, Osadolor, McCloskey, Kemp.
YELLOW: Barbour (38’), Gibson (68’), Thomson (80’)
REFEREE: John Beaton