Some might view the phrase “a game of two halves” as cliched, but it was certainly the case at Ibrox Stadium tonight as Rangers defeated Dumbarton to move three points clear at the top of the Championship.
The first period was completely out of character for the Light Blues, as they looked laboured in their play and created very little in the way of chances, but they played some of their best football of the season in the second period to send the fans home delighted with the fayre on offer.
With Dumbarton having pretty much every man behind the ball, it looked like this would be a repeat of so many matches seen at Ibrox already this season, but it was they who fashioned out the first chance of the game when the ball reached Steven Craig on the edge of the area, but his shot was easily dealt with by Wes Foderingham.
It didn’t take long for normal service to be resumed however, and after receiving a superb ball over his shoulder from Barrie McKay, Lee Wallace volleyed across the face of the goal in the Light Blues first opportunity of the match.
Again though, Dumbarton looked to commit men forward when they had the chance, and Foderingham again had to save, this time from Grant Gallagher, after he had weaved his way through the home defence.
It was all rather tame from Rangers in the opening stages, and while they would have hoped to do better when Jason Holt cut the ball across the face of goal with no takers, opportunities were at a real premium despite holding the vast majority of the ball.
There was a claim for a penalty when Dominic Ball went down in the area under a Steven Saunders challenge, but there was no infringement in the eyes of referee Crawford Allan before the visitors raced to the other end where Kevin Cawley delivered a pinpoint cross onto the head of Craig, but he contrived to nod over the bar with only Foderingham to beat.
That warning was maybe one to many for Rangers as at last some intensity came into their play, and ex-Ranger Mark Brown denied Nicky Clark heading home a tremendous James Tavernier’s cross with a superb one-handed save.
The Rangers supporters were becoming restless at their side’s refusal to shoot on a number of occasions when in seemingly good positions before Clark and Tavernier both tried their luck from distance in the closing minutes of the half, with both strikes sailing high over the bar.
Clearly unhappy with his side’s first half showing, manager Mark Warburton sent his side out a good few minutes ahead of Dumbarton at the beginning of the second period, although Rangers were to be delayed further with part of the Sandy Jardine Front stand being cleared of supporters due to ‘an issue with the stadium fabric.’
By the time play restarted, almost 25 minutes had elapsed since referee Allan had blown for half time, but the Light Blues made no issue of that whatsoever as they took the lead within two minutes with Jason Holt starting and finishing off an excellent move.
The former Hearts man slipped a ball out to the right for James Tavernier who brought it inside the area before chipping it up for Holt to nod home at the back post to make it a quite superb five goals in his last eight games.
It was much more like it from Rangers, and they came close to extending their lead shortly afterwards through a Martyn Waghorn pile-driver from 25 yards as again Tavernier provided an assist, but the effort sailed just wide of the target.
Waghorn wasn’t to be denied however, and he made it 2-0 on the hour mark with an absolutely sensational strike right into the top corner to send the Ibrox crowd into raptures.
From a failed Dumbarton attack, Rangers flooded forward in their numbers with Gedion Zelalem leading the charge. He found Waghorn lurking 25 yards from goal out on the right hand side, and with precision and terrific power, he found the top left corner in quite fabulous style.
The tedious nature of the first half seemed like a distant memory, with Rangers flooding forward at every opportunity, and yet another superb move ended with Tavernier cracking the crossbar from an excellent Lee Wallace cross, and minutes later, substitute Jordan Thompson was denied his first Rangers goal by another great Brown save when he was fed the ball by Kenny Miller.
Some of the football on show from the home side was truly a joy to watch at times, and it was 3-0 with nine minutes left as Nathan Oduwa swept home his first senior goal.
Kenny Miller picked up in midfield and raced forward before he slipped the ball out left for the marauding Lee Wallace. He in turn poked the ball across goal where Oduwa steered it home, nicking in just ahead of the usually deadly Miller.
That wasn’t to be the end of the action however, as Rangers managed a fourth goal with three minutes left on the clock. Lee Wallace charged into the area in trademark fashion before he was clipped from behind by Steven Saunders.
The Dumbarton defender saw red for a professional foul, and Andy Halliday banged the resulting penalty into the top corner for his first goal at his beloved Ibrox.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Ball, Kiernan, Wallace, Halliday, Holt, Zelalem (Thompson 62), Waghorn (Oduwa, 76), Clark, McKay (Miller, 62).
SUBS: Kelly, Aird, Hardie, McCrorie.
DUMBARTON: M Brown, Docherty, Saunders, Cawley (Lindsay, 64), Gallagher, Fleming, Craig (Brophy 67), Gibson, Barr, Routledge (S Brown, 64), Wright.
SUBS: Buchanan, Waters, Ross, Ewings.
BOOKINGS: Cawley (17′)
REFEREE: Crawford Allan