A MARTYN WAGHORN double was enough to see off Hamilton Accies on a chill Lanarkshire evening at New Douglas Park.
Rangers were utterly dominant for long spells of the match and ought to have won by a wider margin, and indeed, they were made to sweat late-on as Dougie Imrie pulled one back for Martin Canning’s men.
Despite that, Gers held-on to record their third league win in succession for the first time this season.
It was Mark Warburton’s side who began the brighter at New Douglas Park, and an early Barrie McKay corner wasn’t cleared properly allowing Joe Garner to get an effort on goal before the ball rebounded once again to McKay, and this time he set up Martyn Waghorn for a shot, but his strike was on the half-volley and went over the bar.
Lee Hodson then showed a real burst of pace to sprint up the right wing, and he played an excellent one-two with Jason Holt on the edge of the area before firing in a powerful shot which ‘keeper Gary Woods did well to get down and smother.
Captain Lee Wallace last week showed his prowess with a long-throw in setting up Barrie McKay for Gers’ second goal in the win over Hearts, and he came close to repeating the trick as Garner got a flick on his shy at the near post which hit the bar and was clawed out by Woods where Jason Holt was just inches away from connecting.
Hamilton weren’t much in the way of an attacking threat, but Greg Docherty came close to handing them an advantage in the 34th minute after he burst beyond James Tavernier on the left-wing, raced into the area and screamed an effort just over the bar.
A minute later at the other end, McKay slipped Holt in and only a last-ditch block from Michael Devlin prevented the former Hearts man from netting his first league goal of the season. Seconds later, Devlin headed a goalbound Waghorn effort over the bar after the Englishman cut inside Scott McMann, and then from the resulting corner, Rob Kiernan was denied a second goal in as many games as he powered a header onto a McKay corner only to see it cleared from the line by a plethora of red and white striped bodies.
It was all Rangers all of a sudden, and their next opportunity saw Jason Holt take a quick throw, play it to and then get it back from Andy Halliday before Holt raced to the edge of the box and saw his shot only just deflected wide for a corner.
Waghorn then had another opportunity when Garner won the ball in midfield and played it through the two Accies centre-halves but the striker’s effort on the volley was saved by Woods at the second attempt.
He wasn’t to be denied for long however as he got his head on a Jason Holt cut-back and his effort looped in off the underside of Woods’ bar.
It was a rather unorthodox way to find the net, but it was a terrific effort from Gers top scorer of last season to hand his side a thoroughly deserved lead.
The one-way traffic from the end of the first half continued at the start of the second, with Waghorn forcing another save from Woods after latching onto a Halliday through-ball, and the second goal Gers craved wasn’t to be too far away, with Waghorn again the scorer.
Barrie McKay played a sumptuous ball through for the marauding Lee Wallace to latch onto in the area and he had the simple task of cutting the ball back across the face of goal for Waghorn to fire in his brace for the evening before celebrating with the thousands of Rangers supporters gathered behind the net.
That was Waghorn’s third league goal of the season, with the trio having all come against Accies after he netted against them on the opening day of the season at Ibrox.
The pace from the Light Blues wasn’t to drop on what was becoming a pretty cold night in South Lanarkshire, and James Tavernier really should have sealed the points after Garner won the ball in midfield, fed Waghorn who in turn played Tavernier in only for Woods to dive low at his feet to clear.
From the resulting corner, Danny Wilson headed on to defensive partner Rob Kiernan, and his effort dropped just wide of the post. Seconds later, another Waghorn charge forward ended with him giving it to Garner on the edge of the box with his first-time shot only just clearing the bar.
Any time Accies did venture forward, they were soon robbed of possession by Gers who were playing at such a high-tempo, and on one such occasion, Tavernier strode forward from deep in his own half, all the way into the home box and fired his eventual shot over the bar, although he may have been better served in feeding Garner, McKay or Waghorn who had joined in him in the area.
Waghorn was understandably keen to complete his hat-trick, and he had two efforts in quick succession, firstly cutting in from the left and shooting just over before nodding a Tavernier cross wide of the post.
That was to be his last action of the night as he was replaced by Harry Forrester on 75 minutes. Almost immediately though, Accies pulled a goal back on one of their few forays into Rangers territory.
Andy Halliday conceded possession out in the right-back position allowing Danny Redmond to square the ball for Dougie Imrie to tap home.
It began a nervy close to the game for Gers, but in that time Tavernier again had the chance to secure the points, being set up this time by Forrester, but he shot wide and then, as McKay was taken out following a sublime double nutmeg, Andy Halliday continued with the ball into the area and, albeit from a highly acute angle, shot across the face of goal.
Then, in the last of three added minutes, Jason Holt shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
Regardless, Rangers held on to secure a deserved three points and will look to make it four wins on the trot against Inverness at Ibrox on Christmas Eve.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Hodson, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace; Tavernier, Halliday, Holt; Waghorn (Forrester, 76), Garner, McKay.
SUBS NOT USED: Gilks, Dodoo, Miller, Senderos, O’Halloran, Hill.
HAMILTON ACADEMICAL: Woods, Devlin, Gillespie, Imrie, Docherty (Donati, 40), D’Acol (Bingham, 63), Redmond, Crawford, MacKinnon (Brophy, 80), McMann, Sarris.
SUBS NOT USED: Thomson, Longridge, Cunningham, Hughes.
REFEREE: Alan Muir