RANGERS returned to winning ways in The Championship with a 4-0 victory over Raith Rovers.
The Light Blues clean sweep of the Kirkcaldy side in the league this season put their push for second place back on track.
With Hibernian beating Hearts earlier in the day a win was vital for Stuart McCall’s side to retain the pressure on the Edinburgh outfit – only two goals separate the sides on goal difference.
Goals from Nicky Clark, Haris Vuckic and a second-half brace from top scorer Nicky Law gave Gers the three points.
Rangers had started their rout early – five minutes had just ticked on to the clock when Clark found himself in acres of spaces in the six-yard box to open Gers account. Law with a neat corner in from the right and Clark, abandoned by the Raith defence, dropped his head to nod inside the near post for his eighth of the season.
Rangers continued to have the bulk of the play, without testing Kevin Cuthbert’s reflexes too much, before Dean Shiels broke through on 14 minutes – his deflected shot forcing a good save from the keeper.
In fact McCall’s side had 68% of the possession within the first half hour and they made it count on 27 minutes. Vuckic producing a near carbon copy of his Hearts goal to double the Light Blues lead. It came after some good work from Robbie Crawford in the right channel to disposes the visitors who were looking to counter. The Slovenian dipped his shoulder and darted inside to dispatch a beautifully clean shot into the bottom left hand corner.
Rovers looked to respond quickly to going two down and pushed up to be rewarded with a free-kick just outside the area. Ryan Conroy, who scored the opener in similar circumstances in Raith’s cup win at Ibrox, stepped up and whipped in a left-footed attempt that Cammy Bell had to be alive to and palm away with both hands.
The second-half saw little creation from either team within the first 20 minutes. Raith looked the keener to make a mark on goal though and on 52 minutes they had a big chance to peg one back. Grant Anderson drilling a cross to Lewis Vaughan who got his feet tangled around the ball before he managed a quick lay-off to Conroy who bent it just wide.
Rangers needed to jump into life and on 65 minutes Crawford looked to light the fire when he turned on the burners down the right wing. He could have tried to fashion a shot but instead he chose to slice a ball across the by-line but Kenny Miller couldn’t reach it and Law sliced his effort wide after arriving late.
New arrival Tom Walsh sparked the attack to give Rangers their third with 18 minutes left to play. He reached the by-line to cut back and try and find Clark lurking inside the six-yard box. His ball reached the advancing Law though and it looked like the midfielder, hasn’t scored since January against Alloa, was to be unlucky again when he put his shot against the crossbar. But it bounced kindly back into Clark’s path who managed to guide it towards Law as he tangled with the defender. And he just had to keep his cool to side foot past the stranded Cuthbert for his 11th of the season.
Walsh had a chance to make it four when he collected a corner to slice at the ball in mid-air. He sent it hurtling towards Cuthbert who reacted quickly to push the ball up and out. And Gers nearly profited from the resulting corner as Black found space to cut a shot across the surface from distance.
But Law was to have the final say when he easily dribbled through the Ibrox sunshine and the Raith defence to shoot from the edge of the area. His shot bouncing into the back of the Rovers goal on 88 minutes to secure a comprehensive win for Rangers.
RANGERS: Bell, Crawford, McGregor, Zaliukas, Wallace, Shiels (Black 78”), Law, Murdoch, Vuckic, Miller (Walsh 67”), Clark (Boyd 78”)
Subs not used: Robinson, Mohsni, Sinnamon, Hardie
Goals: Clark 5”, Vuckic 27”, Law 72”88”
RAITH ROVERS: Cuthbert, Thomson, Watson, Anderson, Moon, Stewart (Elliot 70”), Scott, Conroy, Vaughan (Nade 70”), McKeown, Barr
Subs not used: McGurn, Hill, Robertson, Matthews, Ford