GRAHAM DORRANS was a two-goal hero as Rangers enjoyed a winning start to the 2017/18 season at Motherwell’s Fir Park.
Pedro Caixinha’s men had to show their mettle to secure their first three points of the new campaign against the Steelmen, and while several players in blue impressed on the day it was lifelong bluenose Dorrans who enjoyed a brilliant competitive debut for his new club.
The former Norwich playmaker found the net in the fourth minute with a well-taken finish before Stephen Robinson’s side equalised through Ben Heneghan’s header before the break.
A clumsy challenge by Louis Moult on Fabio Cardoso in the 57th minute meant referee Bobby Madden had no option to point to the spot, and Dorrans showed great composure and class to bury his penalty with so much pressure on his shoulders.
At the final whistle the Rangers supporters celebrated a fine win at a tricky away venue, and Caixinha will be delighted with the way his players battled from the first whistle to the last to begin the new domestic season in the best possible way.
Rangers took the lead after just four minutes and it was that man Dorrans who got it with his first goal in a blue jersey.
A teasing free-kick from Daniel Candeias was headed clear by a Well defender, but only as far as Bruno Alves who had peeled away from the packed 18-yard box at the back post.
The Portugal star floated a deep cross back into the danger area and Kenny Miller nodded it down intelligently to Dorrans in space.
The club’s new number 10 hit his shot first time and although Cedric Kipre and Ben Heneghan did their best to stop the ball before it crossed the line, the power and accuracy in the strike meant their efforts were vain.
Dorrans slid to his knees in front of the Rangers fans in Fir Park’s main stand as he celebrated a moment he will always remember, and the goal was no more than Rangers deserved as they enjoyed a terrific start to the match.
Josh Windass, in particular, looked up for it, using his pace and acceleration to test the Motherwell defence at every opportunity.
The Steelmen looked rattled early on but on 17 minutes they missed a glaring opportunity which would have got them back into the contest at this stage.
A slack pass from Wes Foderingham to Windass was intercepted by a Well player who passed the ball out wide to Chris Cadden, who was free on the right.
As Rangers regrouped the 20-year-old swung in a great delivery to the unmarked Louis Moult at the back post but his volley from six yards went high and wide.
It was turning into an intriguing battle between two sides looking to drive forward at every opportunity, and in the next attack another powerful run from Windass took him into the box from the left wing and his curling right-foot shot clipped the outside of the far post with Motherwell keeper Trevor Carson a relieved man.
Such was the end-to-end nature of the first half you always felt there was going to be more to write about, and this proved to be the case when, on 39 minutes, Motherwell scored.
A brilliant cross from Craig Tanner was perfect for Ben Heneghan and the big defender stooped between Cardoso and Lee Hodson to head the ball down into the ground and then into the net.
Rangers looked to respond quickly, and not surprisingly it was Windass who was involved when he again cut inside from the left and his shot, which took a nick off a defender, smashed off the crossbar.
The scoreline remained at 1-1 at the interval but five minutes into the second half it should have changed when Kenny Miller missed a chance you would have put your money on him taking.
A Dorrans pass released Candeias down the right wing but Charles Dunne appeared to be ushering the ball out for a goal kick, using his body as a shield.
Candeias nipped in brilliantly to steal possession and cut it back to Miller, but the former Scotland hit man curled the ball inches over the bar in front of the vociferous Rangers fans.
They didn’t have to wait long for their side’s second goal though as referee Bobby Madden made the right call by pointing to the spot when Moult appeared to elbow Cardoso in the face as he tried to meet Candeias’ cross in the box.
Dorrans took responsibility and gave Carson no chance, slamming his shot from 12 yards into the side netting with the goalkeeper diving helplessly to his left.
Rangers now had to focus on retaining their slender advantage but with 16 minutes remaining Motherwell came so close to getting back on level terms when substitute Ryan Bowman’s flicked shot brushed the post.
And with the clock ticking down the visitors had Wes Foderingham to thank as he produced a stunning save to deny substitute Alex Fisher in a one-on-one situation, with the ball squirming under his body and inches wide of the post.
It was a dramatic end to a terrific league battle but, in the end, Rangers will be delighted to travel back to Ibrox with three points they fought so hard to claim.
MOTHERWELL: Carson, Tait, Heneghan, Cadden, McHugh, Moult (Fisher 72), Frear (Bowman 65), Rose (Newell 78), Dunne, Kipre, Tanner
SUBS: Griffiths, Plummer, Campbell, McMillan
GOALS: Heneghan 39
BOOKINGS: Dunne, Moult, Heneghan, Tait
RANGERS: Foderingham; Hodson (Tavernier 61), Cardoso, Alves, Wallace; Candeias, Jack, Dorrans, Windass; Herrera (Morelos 82), Miller (Wilson 76)
SUBS: Alnwick, Holt, Dalcio, Pena
GOALS: Dorrans 4, 57pen
BOOKINGS: Cardoso, Dorrans
REF: Bobby Madden