A Barry Ferguson strike on 52 minutes followed by a dream goal for debutant Daniel Cousin gave Walter Smith’s side a precious win with Old Firm rivals Celtic also taking three points with a 4-1 victory over Falkirk earlier in the day.

After the club’s European exertions during the week this match was always going to be a tricky obstacle to overcome and this proved to be the case with St. Mirren making life difficult for the Light Blues, particularly in the first-half.

Smith made two changes to the starting line-up that won 1-0 in Montenegro.

Alan Hutton, suspended against Zeta, came in for Kirk Broadfoot while Kris Boyd was restored to the team at the expense of Brahim Hemdani who dropped out altogether.

The three under-21 players rule meant there was no place on the bench for the likes of Charlie Adam, Filip Sebo or new signing Steven Whittaker.

St. Mirren’s early intentions were clear with Gus MacPherson’s players sitting deep and letting Rangers try to break them down and this tactic worked in the early stages with Rangers unable to retain possession effectively.

Indeed, the Buddies were to have the first clearcut chance of the match when the ball fell to unmarked winger Alan Reid in the 18-yard box but his effort was poor and failed to trouble Allan McGregor.

Reid was in the thick of the action again on 11 minutes when he was the recipient of a late challenge from Lee McCulloch which left referee Michael McCurry with no option but to give the Gers’ star a yellow card.

The large contingent of travelling Saints supporters were out of their seats again two minutes later when a deep free-kick was headed across goal by Will Haining and Cuellar had to be alert to head off the goalline. 

With the danger not yet clear Ryan McCay was then tackled in the box by the Spaniard and the Black and White Army in the Broomloan Stand were adamant that the ref should have pointed to the spot instead of waving away their pleas.

Rangers struggled to stamp their authority on proceedings in the early stages but snap shots from Kris Boyd and McCulloch after the 20 minute mark gave the Ibrox faithful a bit of hope and put the visitor’s backline under sustained pressure for the first time in the match. 

This continued on 25 minutes when Beasley cut inside received the ball from Thomson and the American’s low shot produced a good save from keeper Chris Smith who dived low to his right.

The remainder of the half saw both team’s cancel each other out and goalscoring chances were few and far between although a darting run and cross two minutes before the interval was impressive although there was no one in the six-yard box to put a finishing touch to the move.

The home support voiced their frustration at their side’s inability to break the deadlock in what was a largely disappointing opening 45 minutes.

Half-time: Rangers 0 St. Mirren 0

Smith elected to stick with the same team for the restart and the players looked to have renewed determination with Darcheville dazzling the Saints defence with a stunning run on the right-wing and Beasley firing a right-foot shot narrowly wide of the target.

Darcheville also a glancing header fly across goal from a Barry Ferguson cross.

Rangers had to make the most of this pressure and they did on 52 minutes with an excellent opening goal.

Alan Hutton chipped the ball to McCulloch on the edge of the 18-yard box and his delightful chest control found the onrushing Ferguson.

The captain showed typical composure to fire home his third league goal of the season beyond Smith.

The goal helped to ease any nerves on and off the pitch and the Gers’ players started to play with a bit more confidence and purpose.

Inevitably more chances soon followed and Boyd, still looking to get off the mark this season, was unlucky with a drilled right-foot shot which Smith did well to stop.

Kevin Thomson was next up to try his luck with a superb 25-yard shot which the keeper tipped away to safety as it was heading for the top corner of the net.

As all this was taking place new signing Daniel Cousin was waiting on the wings to get the nod from his gaffer and it came on 68 minutes when he replaced Boyd.

His aerial threat was apparent as soon as he jogged on to the famous Ibrox turf but Saints keeper Smith would have been surprised when his own player Ryan McCay redirected a Barry Ferguson free-kick towards goal and he had to be sharp to produce a superb save to keep his team in the game. 

Cousin was out to impress on his debut and he could not have enjoyed a better start when he netted his first goal on 78 minutes. 

Beasley darted past a defender and unselfishly played in the big striker who tucked the ball home from close range before celebrating with his new teammates.

Rangers could have been awarded a penalty when Nacho Novo looked to be brought down by Smith after he tried to take the ball around the keeper but this would have been harsh.

In the end it was an excellent second-half performance that got Rangers the win this afternoon but another impressive clean sheet was an added bonus.

FT: Rangers 2 St. Mirren 0

Man of the Match: Carlos Cuellar

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