RANGERS swept Linfield aside as they put on a superb footballing display in Jamie Mulgrew’s Testimonial.
Kenny Miller netted four goals as the Gers scored the same amount during six first-half minutes – it was 5-0 by the half hour mark.
Rob Kiernan and Joe Garner grabbed their first goals for the club, the latter returning to the pitch in the second-half after a head injury forced him off with just nine minutes played.
The goal of the afternoon belonged to Niko Kranjcar though as he created a stunning top corner finish on 24 minutes.
Rangers began in lively fashion and Forrester sprang to cut a promising ball back off the by-line with four minutes gone. The Gers frontline scrambled to get a touch to it but Stephen Lowry was quick to turn it behind and out for a corner.
It had seemed like bad news for Garner on his first start for the Gers as he was forced off inside 10 minutes. Michael O’Halloran was his early replacement as Miller shifted to the middle and Forrester to the left.
Within a minute of the change Miller had fired the ball into the roof of the net. Josh Windass rose at the back post to head straight at Roy Carroll and was unlucky not to score himself. The keeper parried into his path and he had another dig but Carroll’s second save rebounded into the path of Miller and the striker needed no invitation to score.
Miller went close to doubling his tally on 19 minutes when Forrester laid off a cute ball to him on the edge of the area. He shaped to put his laces through it and cannoned the ball at Carroll but the Northern Ireland stopper saved well down to his right.
As the clock ticked onto 24 minutes Kranjcar created a moment of magic all by himself. The Croatian picked the ball up 25 yards out and rifled the ball into the top left corner leaving Carroll standing and watching with no hope of reaching it.
Two minutes later Kiernan had his first goal for Rangers. Forrester sent a driven effort at the keeper from a tight angle on the left and forced a great save to deny him and Carroll followed it up with quick reactions. But the ball fell loose to Kiernan and the centre-half tapped the ball home via the woodwork.
Miller then grabbed his hat-trick with two goals in three minutes. First he latched onto an O’Halloran through ball to dribble around Carroll and cooly slot home. Then on the half hour mark O’Halloran linked up with the 36-year-old again as he got to the by-line to fizz a ball into the area. It by-passed the Linfield defence and Miller took his time to take a touch, find a half yard and pass into an empty net.
Linfield were five goals behind and had created little in return. On 34 minutes Matt Gilks was called into action for the first time as Johnny Frazer lifted a ball onto the head of Josh Carson from the right. The winger out jumped Kiernan to nod goalwards but Gilks touched the ball over with ease.
The home side went close again just before the break. Frazer laid the chance on a plate for Stephen Fallon who just had to tap it beyond Gilks. The keeper made himself big though and made a solid stop with his outstretched right leg.
Kranjcar nearly added an even more spectacular goal to his afternoon total just after the turnaround. Windass won a free-kick far out on the left and it looked like the Croatian would whip a ball into the box. Instead he opted to try and curl the ball inside the far post and he nearly managed it as he hit the post.
Miller slotted home his fourth of the afternoon on 52 minutes after a brilliant passing move from Rangers. Windass bombed down the left channel to square the ball into O’Halloran who was breaking into the box. The forward chose to be unselfish and laid it off to Miller who dragged the ball around the defender and side-footed home.
Linfield tried to react and created two quick chances in return. First Jimmy Callacher forced a save out of Gilks with a header after Carson whipped a dangerous free-kick in. Then Kiernan failed to out muscle substitute Kris Bright down the right and he got a shot away across the face of goal but he dragged wide of the far post.
With his head bandaged Garner returned to the field patched up with 34 minutes left of the game. The Gers attack also saw Martyn Waghorn introduced.
With Miller leaving the pitch on 68 minutes Andy Halliday saw himself given the armband for the first time in his Gers career. And the captain nearly scored within seconds of being handed the responsibility. James Tavernier sent a superb cross to the far post and the stand in left-back stretched to try and turn it beyond Carroll but was a fraction too late to finish the move.
Gilks was called into action to keep Linfield out as they forced a wave of attacks. Sean Ward tried a 25-yard effort and the keeper was forced into a good save, turning the ball out for a corner. Then Bright tried to lob the 34-year-old and he had to scramble back to tip the effort over. The Belfast side rounded it off when sub David Bates switched off and Gilks was forced to stop with his feet on the line. It fell as far as Sean Ward but he blasted wide.
Garner had his first Gers goal on 84 minutes as he latched onto a rapid cross from O’Halloran. The winger stormed into the box to find the striker sprinting to the far post and he managed to finish at pace, breaking his run to get an outstretched leg to the cross. But in the end it was an exhibition game for Mark Warburton’s team.
RANGERS: Gilks, Tavernier, Kiernan, Senderos (Hill 56’), Halliday; Windass (Waghorn 56’), Barton, Kranjcar; Forrester (Garner 56’), Garner (O’Halloran 9’), Miller (Bates 68’)
Subs not used: Foderingham
Goals: Miller 10’ 27’ 30’ 52’, Kranjcar 24, Kiernan 26’, Garner 74’
LINFIELD: Carroll, Stafford (Stewart 53’), Callacher, Lowry (Gaynor 45’), Millar (Frazer 23’), Burns (Bright 45’), Clarke, Fallon, Mulgrew (Quinn 74’), Glendinning (Casement 71’), Carson (Ward 45’)