RANGERS returned to winning ways in the Scottish Premiership with a hard-fought victory over Partick Thistle at Ibrox Stadium this afternoon.
In what was something of a derby match, the biggest home crowd of the season so far – 49,680 – rocked up in Govan to see goals from Niko Kranjcar and Andy Halliday ensure the three points remained on the south side of the Clyde.
Rangers and their supporters so often see opposition teams come to Ibrox and set up to frustrate the home side, but, to their credit it has to be said, Partick set their stall out right from the off to have a go, and it was they who had the upper hand in the opening quarter of the game.
Ryan Edwards really should have had the Jags ahead with eight minutes on the clock as Ade Azeez, despite appearing to run the ball beyond the bye-line, found him unmarked in the six-yard box but he headed straight at Wes Foderingham who gratefully held his effort.
Azeez himself then may have done better with a headed effort shortly afterwards, but this time the ball went over the top of the bar.
Not dominating a home game is a real rarity for the Light Blues, and efforts on goal from them were few and far between in the opening exchanges, with a deflected Danny Wilson effort from the edge of the box pretty much the best they could muster.
The superior quality Rangers possess in their squad had to shine through at some point though, and on 33 minutes, it duly did, with Niko Kranjcar netting a quite excellent goal.
Picking up the ball on the edge of the area, he looked set to shoot for goal, but instead he opted to dance his way into the box, holding off and beating a number of Thistle defenders in the process before firing the ball high into the roof of the net.
The sense of relief around Ibrox was palpable given the opening to the game, and the goal appeared to give the Gers a real lift, with chances soon coming and going on a more regular basis.
Niko Kranjcar almost turned provider from a corner kick with his superb, drilled ball finding Barrie McKay on the penalty spot, with his shot deflected away by a desperate Jags defence.
Then, as Partick looked to play out of defence, a slack pass from Danny Devine was seized upon by Martyn Waghorn who immediately charged forward.
Supporting him were a cast of Gers players, and they included Andy Halliday, who, despite Waghorn’s ball being ever so slightly behind him, did exceptionally well from just inside the area to find the back of the net to hand his side a 2-0 advantage.
The second half kicked off with Thistle again taking the match to Rangers, and only a combination of Wes Foderingham with the merest touch on a Chris Erskine effort on goal and then Philippe Senderos with a last-ditch clearance on the line prevented the lead being halved.
At the other end, the game should have been put to bed as McKay produced some sensational skill to flick the ball over Ziggy Gordon’s head out on the left wing before his curling cross into the box somehow evaded both the advancing Kenny Miller and Waghorn.
Kranjcar then did well to intercept another loose clearance from the visitors before feeding the flying Miller on the right wing, with his cross finding Jason Holt although his shot on goal was pushed away by goalkeeper Ryan Scully.
Holt was again denied at close range by Scully as again a Miller cross found him, before the rebound dropped for substitute Joe Garner, but he couldn’t get a shot away as yellow and red-clad bodies flew in front of him.
But 2-0 it finished, and at last Rangers have another top-flight victory to boast about as the international break now brings a halt to normal proceedings for the next fortnight.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Senderos, Wilson, Wallace; Halliday, Holt, Kranjcar (Forrester, 74); Waghorn (Garner, 62), Miller, McKay (Dodoo, 62).
SUBS NOT USED: Gilks, Hodson, O’Halloran, Crooks, Kiernan.
PARTICK THISTLE: Scully, Booth, Lindsay, Osman, Amoo (Elliot, 65), Erskine (Walsh, 74), Lawless, Devine, Azeez (McDaid, 79), Edwards, Gordon.
SUBS NOT USED: Stuckmann, Barton, Wilson, Fraser.
REFEREE: Mr Stephen Finnie