IT WILL be Somerset Park and Ayr United on Sunday-week for Rangers after they overcame Fraserburgh in round four of the Scottish Cup this evening thanks to a Josh Windass hat-trick.
The Highland League outfit made it as tough as they could for their well-traveled opponents, but in the end, this was a professional job done by Graeme Murty’s men to make it three-wins on the bounce in all competitive competitions while also setting up their trip to Ian McCall’s Ayrshiremen.
The setting couldn’t be more apt for a classic Scottish Cup tie. Bellslea Park provided a tight pitch, while Mother Nature provided occasional hail showers and a strong, biting wind.
The hosts, in the prematch build-up, could not have been more welcoming or friendly towards their guests from Glasgow, but once the game began, those pleasantries ended, with Fraserburgh beginning the brighter of the two sides.
Twice in the opening few minutes, Ryan Cowie had shots on goal, the first a free-kick from 25-yards which was blocked by a Gers wall before the left-back’s second strike was a curling effort which went a few feet wide of Jak Alnwick’s post.
The visitors soon settled, however, and Jason Cummings was inches away from opening the scoring following some good setup play from Niko Kranjcar, with the striker being denied only ay the last by goalkeeper Peter Tait.
It felt another big chance could come at any time, and on the 15-minute mark, it arrived with Jason Holt felled for a penalty kick.
Some lovely interplay around the box from Gers ended with Niko Kranjcar playing-in Holt, and as the captain went to shoot, he was felled by Ryan Cowie for a clear foul.
Up stepped Josh Windass to take, and he sent Tait the wrong way to hand the Light Blues the lead in front of the hardy band of supporters who had made the mammoth journey north.
To Fraserburgh’s credit, they refused to let the roof cave in from that point, with Gers’ next real effort taking another 12 minutes to come, with Kranjcar striking the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.
Cummings was inches away from connecting to a Windass cross, only for Bryan Hay to send it behind for a corner, while from the resulting kick, Andy Halliday’s ball was headed wide by David Bates.
At the other end, another Broch free-kick, this time from Ryan Christie, was charged down again by the wall before the ball broke again for the defender on the edge of the box for him to send out of the ground.
Into the second half, and again, Fraserburgh began the brighter, with Lewis Davidson heading a corner into the arms of Alnwick, but Gers soon regained control, with the home side unable to get out of their half.
Eventually, that pressure told, with Windass making it 2-0 on 55 minutes. A Lee Hodson cross was sliced towards goal by Cummings, only for the ball come into the path of the incoming Windass who finished high into the back of the net.
Again, the Broch came back at Gers, with Jamie Beagrie twisting and turning inside the away box before narrowly shooting wide of the target before Windass killed the game as a contest with his hat-trick goal.
With Fraserburgh thin at the back, Kranjcar played a lovely ball out to the left for Windass. He checked inside Dean Cowie and rifled a superb drive into the bottom corner for his first triple for the club.
It killed the game as a contest, and for the home side, fatigue looked to be creeping in a little with a slip at the back presenting a chance to Daniel Candeias to race into the area only for his shot on goal to be saved by the legs of Tait.
The game ended on a little bit of a sour note with Graham Johnston, who had minutes earlier come onto the park as a substitute, red carded for a late tackle on Joe Dodoo, himself having stepped off the bench for Gers.
Dodoo then came close to a comeback goal after dancing his way into the area, only for Bryan Hay to hook his effort off the line before David Bates had an effort deflected just wide of the post.
FRASERBURGH FC: Tait, Dickson, Hay, R Cowie, Christie (Campbell, 68), D Cowie, Beagrie, West (Rae, 68), Harris ( Johnston, 83) Young, Davidson.
SUBS NOT USED: Buchan, Combe, Buchan, Flinn.
BOOKED: Cowie (17’), Christie (52’)
RANGERS: Alnwick, Hodson, Cardoso, Bates, John, Holt, Halliday, Kranjcar, Windass (Herrera, 70), Candeias (Murphy, 78), Cummings (Dodoo, 70)
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Morelos, Goss, Wilson.
BOOKED: Holt (72’)
REFEREE: Greg Aitken