AFTER a strong and largely dominant performance, Rangers Colts were unfortunate to be knocked out of the Irn-Bru Cup by Dumbarton this evening.
In incredible, monsoon-like conditions at the Your Radio 103FM Stadium, early goals in each half from Calum Gallagher and Mark Stewart were enough for Stevie Aitken’s Championship outfit to progress to the second round, although Ryan Hardie gave Graeme Murty’s side hope with 18 minutes left.
There was much anticipation and excitement from the Gers under-20s’ side going into this one, but they were dealt a blow with little over a minute on the clock as Aidan Wilson brought down Calum Gallagher inside the area, with referee Gavin Ross immediately pointing to the spot.
Gallagher dusted himself down to take the spot kick, firing it high into the top-right corner to hand the home side an early lead.
Rather than feel sorry for themselves however, the Gers responded fantastically well and dominated pretty much all of the remaining 43 minutes of the half, creating plentiful chances although the much sought-after equaliser evaded them.
First up to try his luck was Jamie Barjonas who slid a 20-yard free-kick under the wall looking to catch out former Rangers goalkeeper Scott Gallagher, although he read what the youngster was trying to do and made an easy save.
Zak Rudden was next up, spotting Gallagher off his line although his effort from some 40-yards was off-target, before the man from Leith couldn’t properly connect with a super Myles Beerman cross from the left, again seeing his effort go wide.
Jason Holt was handed the opportunity for some valuable game-time, and he came close to netted following a superb move from Graeme Murty’s side. Beginning with a superb switch of play from Rudden out to Serge Atakayi, the Finn then spotted the run of Jason Holt down the right channel. Holt cut into the box and slid a shot only just wide of the far post.
Barjonas then had a 25-yard drive deflected wide and Dallas was denied at close-range by Gallacher before the home side reminded Gers they were still in the game as another former Ger in Kyle Hutton struck a post from distance.
Into the second half, and unfortunately it began in similar fashion to the first with Dumbarton scoring once more.
This time, Tom Walsh got to the by-line and cut the ball back for Mark Stewart who had worked a yard of space in the middle. He made no mistake with his finish.
Again though, Rangers responded well, Ryan Hardie volleying just wide following good hold-up play from Rudden.
At the other end, however, the Sons were more lively and Aidan McAdams was forced into two fine saves from Stewart in the space of a few minutes.
With 18-minutes left on the clock, Rangers finally got their rewards as Ryan Hardie scored a classic Ryan Hardie goal. Dumbarton were caught in possession deep in their own half by Zak Rudden, and he immediately fed Hardie slightly left of goal, with the big striker remaining clam to apply the finish.
Almost straight from the restart, Jason Holt thread the ball through the home defence for substitute Matty Shiels to latch onto. Gallagher pushed his initial effort wide before clearing his second from a tight angle away for a corner.
Holt again turned provider for Gers, this time playing in Hardie, but again Gallagher made the save as another great chance went astray for the Light Blues.
That proved to be the final opportunity for Gers, but they can leave this game with their heads held high after more-than amtching their Championship opponents throughout the 90 minutes.
RANGERS: McAdams, Houston, Beerman, Holt, Wilson, McCrorie, Atakayi (Shiels, 66), Barjonas, Hardie, Rudden, Dallas (Palmer, 60).
SUBS NOT USED: Wright, Thomson, Gray, Zata, Finlayson.