Walter Smith’s team were looking to bounce back from their midweek exit from the UEFA Cup and they did so in terrific style against a Dons team that failed to live up to their pre-match hype.

Kris Boyd was the undoubted man-of the match after his first-half hat-trick on his return to the starting eleven and he must have enjoyed answering his critics with yet another lethal goalscoring display in front of a packed stadium. 

Smith elected to hand Sasa Papac a place in his starting eleven alongside David Weir and, with Kevin Thomson out with an ankle knock, changed his formation to 4-4-2 with Prso supporting Boyd in attack.

It was almost inevitable that Boyd would mark his return to the team with a goal but even the Rangers’ supporters seemed stunned with just how quickly he managed to find the net against the in-form Dons.

Charlie Adam had come close in the opening stages with a right-foot shot which went inches wide but on seven minutes Boyd once again showed his uncanny ability in front of goal.

Alan Hutton picked the ball up on the right wing and played a high, looping cross into the 18-yard box.

More often than not this would probably have been bread and butter for Scotland international Russell Anderson but Rangers’ prolific striker nipped in front of him before heading brilliantly beyond Jamie Langfield.

Smith must have been delighted with his side’s domination in the first 15 minutes and they could have had a penalty not long when Hutton looked to be pulled down by Richard Foster. Referee Michael McCurry, however, was quick to wave away any appeals.

With only four points sepearating the teams prior to kick-off the importance of this game could not be underestimated and after a slow start Calderwood’s men started to edge their way into the game.

On 22 minutes midfielder Chris Clark pushed into the last third and when he squared the ball to striker Lee Miller his powerful shot from 20-yards was gathered by McGregor at the second attempt.

This early scare was not enough to dent the home side’s increasing confidence and on 26 minutes they made it 2-0 again thanks to Boyd. 

Adam this time did well on the left to find space and his deflected cross spun into the box.

The ball missed captain Barry Ferguson but Boyd was there to hammer home his side’s second from six yards.

At this stage the Reds’ gaffer was scratching his head in disbelief as his players had effectively given Rangers a two-goal head start and, at the half-hour mark, had failed to trouble the Gers backline.

Things, however, were to get even worse for the visitors and, remarkably, Boyd was to wrap up his hat-trick on the half-hour mark although he was the first man to thank Hutton for his outstanding contribution in the build-up.

The right-back played a one-two with Ferguson but the return pass looked to be covered by Dons centre-half Andrew Considine.

Hutton had other ideas and after sliding to win the ball he played a delightful pass to his unmarked teammate who made no mistake with a fantastic finish.

The Ibrox faithful were in ecstasy at this stage and Smith, who was taking in the action in his usual Director’s Box seat, must have been wondering why his team could not have performed like this in Spain on Wednesday night.

In fairness, Aberdeen were not close to playing at the level Osasuna had reached in both legs against Rangers and Calderwood, and indeed the Aberdeen players, must have been desperate for the first-half to end so that they could regroup.

The Rangers players, on the other hand, were given a standing ovation at the referee’s whistle and it was certainly deserved after a tremendous 45 minutes of football which they had dominated from start to finish.

With the weather deteriorating even further and Calderwood electing to change his formation from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 the Gers were never going to get it as easy in the second-half and this proved to be the case.

And the Dons renewed determination was evident when a late tackle from Michael Hart on Nacho Novo on 52 saw the Spaniard need medical attention even although the defender did not even receive a booking.

Scott Severin was then unlucky with a 20-yard shot which went inches over Allan McGregor’s cross bar at the Broamloan Road end of the stadium. 

It was not long, however, before the Gers had regained control and the Aberdeen defence were lucky that the scoreline remained the same with 20 minutes remaining with the home team firing shots and crosses on Langfield’s goal.

One of the biggest surprises from the game was the introduction of youngster Andrew Shinnie on 80 minutes. 

The midfielder, who is from the Granite City, had scored a double aginst St. Mirren in the under-19s 3-0 win earlier in the day and capped a remarkable 24 hours by making his first-team debut against his hometown club.

Despite strong pressure being put on the Dons defence they were able to hold out although it was the Gers players that celebrated a hugely important win at the end of an entertaining 90 minutes of football.

With the cries of ‘easy, easy’ coming from the four Ibrox stands it was a horrendous day for the Dons who were outclassed in every position on the pitch.

Man of the match – who else but Kris Boyd!

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