Allan McGregor replaced Stefan Klos between the sticks, so under-18 goalkeeper Graeme Smith was rewarded with a place on the bench. It was a memorable day for two other under-18 stars as Chris Burke, who scored against Kilmarnock on his debut earlier this term, started for the first time and bustling youth striker Tom Brighton took his bow with a place in the left side of midfield.
Barry Ferguson, Tore Andre Flo, Ronald de Boer, Shota Arveladze and World Cup pair Peter Lovenkrands and Claudio Caniggia were rested, so Lorenzo Amoruso wore the captain’s armband once again.
It was a fairly low-key first-half with chances few and far between, but Chris Burke was determined to make a name for himself by running at the Pars defence early on.
Tony Vidmar had a good opportunity to head Rangers into the lead after five minutes. Neil McCann’s free-kick from the right caused panic in the Dunfermline defence, but the Aussie defender was penalised for climbing in the box.
Rangers went in front midway through the first-half and it was Vidmar’s Australian team-mate that broke the deadllock. Neil McCann’s wicked corner was met by Craig Moore and the solid defender bundled the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
Tom Brighton was given an unwelcome reminder of his Rangers debut. The youngster broke clear just after the goal but Marco Ruitenbeek raced from his line and won a 50/50 challenge that decked his opponent. Thankfully after treatment to a head knock Tom was able to continue.
9-in-a-row legend Ian Ferguson was playing his final SPL match and the tough-tackling midfielder almost equalised before the break. A Barry Nicholson corner broke to him 20 yards from goal and he lashed a fine volley just past McGregor’s left hand post.
There was a little more urgency just after the break and Dunfermline’s Kevin McLeish tested McGregor with a long range drive, but the talented keeper held the midfielder’s 25-yard effort.
The game then settled into the same slow pattern as the first-half but the Pars had a great chance to equalise on the hour when Stevie Crawford raced into the penalty area. The pacy Scotland striker latched on to a through ball from midfield, but screwed his right foot shot past the post with the goal at his mercy.
Tom Brighton was replaced by Michael Mols moments later and while the striker had a quiet debut, he’ll be delighted to sample life in the Scotland’s top flight. He also has the bruises from a punishing Ian Ferguson tackle to add to his list of East End Park memories!
Michael Mols’ arrival was greeted with the usual high praise from the travelling Gers support and the Dutchman should have killed the game off ten minutes later. Neil McCann sent in a delightful cross from the wing, but Michael’s header from 8 yards went just past the post when he should have hit the target.
Chris Burke then won a free-kick at the edge of the Pars penalty area with 15 minutes to play. But after much deliberation between Amoruso, Nerlinger and McCann, Neil took responsibility.
Unfortunately he sent a powerful left-foot drive well over the bar much to Amo’s disgust!
Michael Mols then missed another great chance to kill the game off and Rangers paid for it as Dunfermline equalised with five minutes to go.
Colin Nish head-flicked Andrius Skerla’s long ball on to Stevie Crawford and the striker raced clear of the Gers defence. Allan McGregor tried to put the Scotland man off, but he lashed a fine right foot drive low and hard into the back of the net from inside the box.
The season may have ended with something of a whimper for Rangers at East End Park, but that was always going to be the case after the fireworks in the Scottish Cup Final win over Celtic last weekend.
It may have been a meaningless draw for Alex McLeish’s side, but at least a clutch of promising youth players gained crucial top team experience and the hard work starts now for Big Eck as he prepares for an assault on next season’s SPL title.
There was also a fitting tribute for Ian Ferguson at East End Park. Rangers director Campbell Ogilvie marked Fergie’s final game with a presentation before kick off. A true Ibrox legend retires after a wonderful career and he rightly received a standing ovation when replaced by McGarty near the end of the game.
Rangers: McGregor, Vidmar, Moore (Latapy 73), Amoruso, Ross, Brighton (Mols 61), Nerlinger(Dowie 81), Malcolm, Burke, McCann, Dodds. Subs: Smith, Numan, Latapy, Mols, Dowie.
Dunfermline: Ruitenbeek, Skerla, Thomson, Nicholson, Ferguson(McGarty 80), Crawford, Mason, Nicholls (Kilgannon 54), Petrie, Nish(Blair85), McLeish. Subs: Harrower, Kilgannon, McGarty, Blair, Sutherland.
Bookings: Nish (66)
Referee: Mike McCurry
Man of the Match: Maurice Ross
Moment of the Match: Ian Ferguson welcomes Ibrox youngster Tom Brighton to the SPL with a firm tackle from behind!