AN excellent display of grit, determination and some tremendous football saw Rangers return to winning ways with a defeat of Aberdeen this afternoon.
In what was a terrific game of football with chances at both ends and plenty of blood and thunder, goals from Kenny Miller and Lee Hodson – his first in Light Blue – saw Gers provide the perfect tonic to their midweek reverse to Hearts at Tynecastle before Andrew Considine netted a consolation deep in stoppage time.
In front of a packed to the rafters Ibrox – indeed the first 50,000-plus crowd of the season – which was alive with noise, it was Aberdeen who fashioned the first chance.
James Maddison, who netted a last-gasp free-kick winner when the sides last met in September, curled a very decent effort up and over the Gers wall which dropped only just wide of Wes Foderingham’s right-hand post.
Five minutes later following plenty of the usual blood and thunder that can be expected when the two sides meet, Joe Garner did well to latch onto a Barrie McKay knock-down on the edge of the area, with Dons keeper Joe Lewis forced to turn the Englishman’s effort wide.
It was true end-to-end stuff, and Foderingham was forced to pull a save right out of the top drawer to prevent Rob Kiernan turning a Graeme Shinne cross into his own net. Then, skipper Lee Wallace, in trademark fashion, sprinted from his left-back role, played a superb one-two with Joe Garner in midfield which put him clean through on goal before uncharacteristically he fired wide of the target.
If anything though, that missed opportunity cranked the decibel level up another few notches, with Kenny Miller next to come close, being just inches away from connecting with the ball inside the box following a smart Garner flick-on.
Two minutes into the second half, there was a major let-off for the Light Blues with Jayden Stockley missing a gilt-edged chance for the Dons. Out on the right, Johnny Hayes skipped away from Rob Kiernan and stood a ball up for Stockley who was perfectly positioned in the middle of the six-yard box. Somehow, however, he nodded wide of the target with only Foderingham to beat.
Rangers hadn’t really started the second half as they would have liked, but they were to make Aberdeen pay for their profligacy at the other end with the opening goal.
Joe Garner picked up the ball out on the right and delivered a terrific, curling ball right across the face of goal to the back post where Kenny Miller was incoming, and as he can always be relied upon to do, fired the ball beyond Lewis and into the back of the net.
Miller was playing in more of a midfield role than what supporters have become accustomed to, be he showed his true striking prowess with a finish that sent an expectant Ibrox into raptures.
There was still plenty of time to go in the game, though, and the lively Maddison twice burst his way through the park to get shots on goal, although both were weak and easily gathered by Foderingham.
James Tavernier and Martyn Waghorn were introduced to the action on the 64th and 66th minute respectively, and they further lifted the tempo, with Waghorn in particular having a superb impact, using his physicality to full effect up front.
Aberdeen were under all sorts of stresses at the back, and Rangers took full advantage with the second goal of the game in the 70th minute.
Waghorn picked up the ball wide on the right, fed it to the edge of the area for Barrie McKay, and he then found Lee Hodson who had timed his run into the area to perfection to blast beyond Lewis.
It was wonderful football from Rangers, and given the way the game was going at that time, the goal provided them with a richly deserved cushion.
Indeed, the cushion could have been greater had it not been for a last-ditch intervention from Andrew Considine to prevent Garner nodding in a Wallace cross after the full-back had marauded into the area.
The closing minutes saw Derek McInnes’ side throw men forward in search of a route back into the game, but that left spaces at the back which Harry Forrester almost exploited, forcing Lewis into an excellent save having danced his way towards goal, although he may have been better served squaring for either Garner or Waghorn who were both free in the area.
The final minute of normal time then saw Clint Hill sent off for a second bookable offence after a tug on James Maddison in midfield, and then a mass flare-up in injury time saw Dons skipper Ryan Jack dismissed.
It really was all kicking off, and with the last meaningful touch of the game, Considine netted a consolation for Aberdeen.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Hodson, Kiernan, Hill, Wallace; Halliday, Holt, Miller (Tavernier, 64); O’Halloran (Waghorn 66), Garner, McKay (Forrester,77).
SUBS NOT USED: Gilks, Wilson, Dodoo, Crooks.
BOOKED: Hodson, Kiernan, Halliday, Hill, Wallace.
SENT OFF: Hill
ABERDEEN: Lewis, Logan, Taylor, Considine, Reynolds, Jack, Shinnie (Pawlett, 76), Hayes, McLean (McGinn, 76), Maddison, Stockley (Rooney, 69).
SUBS NOT USED: Alexander, O’Connor, Burns, Storey.
BOOKED: Jack, Considine, Pawlett.
SENT OFF: Jack.
REFEREE: Steven McLean