RANGERS reached their first cup final of the Mark Warburton era as his side swept aside St Mirren in the Petrofac Cup.
A Jason Holt goal just after the half hour mark was added to by Kenny Miller with 14 minutes left to play, Martyn Waghorn weighed in with an 86th minute third and then Sean Kelly turned one into his net as the final whistled approached.
Holt’s sixth of the season meant he has netted four in his last seven games. This one was especially important as it started Gers on their way as they look to win the Petrofac Cup at the fourth time of asking.
There were muted celebrations from the players at the final whistle, perhaps they will save that for when they face Peterhead in the final on April 10.
With six minutes gone Gedion Zelalem must have been wondering how he didn’t have his first goal in Rangers blue. The Arsenal starlet found the ball lurking eight yards out and could have taken it first time but dropped a shoulder and opted to curl the ball around the defender. Jamie Langfield had to react quickly to execute a superb save as he tipped it over the bar.
Rangers had started brilliantly, pouring forward and barely giving St Mirren a chance to breathe. On six minutes they broke from the back and Lee Wallace bounded forward to whip a shot at goal. It nicked a Saints defender en route, causing the ball to skew dangerous towards Langfield, and it sent him scrambling to save at his near post.
St Mirren got their first shot on target with a decent free-kick in the 13th minute. Stephen Mallan lined up the set-piece in a central location and Foderingham was forced to change his movement to save it when the ball was fired straight as he scampered left.
Five minutes later Miller found himself threaded in by Martyn Waghorn and he really should have scored. He shrugged the defender off to go one-on-one with Langfield, as he tried to slide it into the bottom corner, but the keeper was down quick to save at his feet.
With the half hour approaching Barrie McKay and Waghorn combined to outwit the St Mirren defence and give Gers a golden chance. The wide man found the perfect route through the bodies to place a ball at the feet of the on running striker. Waghorn had Jack Baird and Langfield to round but as he did he drifted too far wide and the angle meant he eventually blazed his strike over.
Four minutes later Rangers had their breakthrough, a second goal for Jason Holt in seven days. The diminutive middleman was left unmarked deep in the penalty box and pounced when Andy Halliday chipped a tidy ball into him. He steadied himself and coolly slotted the ball past Langfield.
St Mirren mustered up a half chance eight minutes after the break when sub Lewis Morgan robbed Kiernan and flashed the ball across goal but Wallace was there to clear. Just after Waghorn tried a cheeky chip over the keeper when he stopped Langfield off his line but he had it covered.
The visitors were enjoying their first spell of pressure in the game and Rangers started to become a little scrappy as they were forced to close down the Saints.
A Waghorn free-kick out on the right nearly got Warburton’s men back into control on 62 minutes though. Unusually James Tavernier stood to one side to let his former Wigan teammate take aim. The striker got a good curl on it as he tried to place the ball into the top corner but Langfield snatched with confidence.
Rangers’ biggest scare of the game came with 22 minutes left as Stuart Carswell cracked a shot off the crossbar. The defence had given him time to shape an effort up and he lent back on the edge of the box to send a stinging shot Foderingham’s way. The Light Blues needed to realise quickly that a cup final appearance was still some time away as they failed to soak up St Mirren pressure adequately.
But within eight minutes of that huge let off Miller had doubled the lead for Rangers. Waghorn squared a cute ball into the six yard box and all the 35-year-old had to do was tap it over the line to make it 2-0 and put Rangers in plain sight of Peterhead.
With six minutes left on the clock Waghorn wanted to join in on the party too as he drilled his 18th of the season into the far corner. Dean Shiels played him in as Rangers surged forward and then the solid striker took St Mirren on himself, ducking and diving through their ranks to find himself on the edge of the box and with no other thought but to go for goal.
Foderingham had a quiet afternoon but had to be lively when Steven Thompson’s turned and got a snapshot away three minutes from time.
Rangers still had time to shape a fourth into the dying minutes. Shiels picked up a short corner and his low cut back into the box was turned into his own net by Kelly.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace, Halliday, Holt (Shiels 63’), Zelalem, Waghorn, Miller (Hardie 7’), McKay (Clark 63’)
Subs not used: Kelly, Ball, Aird, Oduwa
Goals: Holt 33’, Miller 76’, Waghorn 84’, Kelly (OG) 90’
ST MIRREN: Langfield, Kelly, Webster, McMullan (Morgan 45’), Carswell, Mallan (Stewart 85’), Baird, Agnew, McLear (Thompson 71’), Gallagher, Reid
Subs not used: Wilks, Howieson, Cuddihy, Shankland
Yellows: Mallan 73’