CHAMPIONSHIP Ayr United were comprehensively beaten with the minimum of fuss at Ibrox tonight as Rangers booked their Betfred Cup semi-final place.
Glenn Middleton grabbed a double while there were single strikes for Nikola Katic and Alfredo Morelos, with the Light Blues now set to visit Hampden for the eighth time in the last four seasons.
It has been a hectic few weeks for supporters with game after game, but once again they turned out in their numbers with another excellent crowd of 35,042 in attendance at Ibrox this evening.
Ayr United have been in tremendous form recently, and lead the Championship despite having only been promoted from League One in the summer. And, they showed their intent from the start, creating two opportunities in the opening 12 minutes.
Firstly, as Gers only half-cleared a corner-kick, the ball broke for former Ibrox man Andy Murdoch to strike from the edge of the area, with Wes Foderingham forced to touch the ball over.
Foderingham was then called into action again, blocking an Alan Forrest cross at the front post before it could reach Robbie Crawford in the middle for a certain tap-in.
Those opportunities seemed to kick the home side into life, and after a period of dominant possession, albeit without any real end product, they went ahead.
A terrific corner-kick from Ryan Kent to the edge of the six-yard box was headed into the net by Nikola Katic after he had cleared a cluster of white Ayr jerseys from his path to get on the end of it.
It was the goal Rangers needed to settle themselves, and afterwards, they took full control of the encounter, comfortably keeping the ball and threatening Ross Doohan’s goal whenever they could.
And on 31 minutes, the second goal for the home side arrived. After playing their way nicely up the left wing, Andy Halliday broke the offside trap to send Glenn Middleton through on goal, and he made no mistake with his finish, firing low under the advancing Doohan.
Four minutes into the second half, and the game was put beyond reasonable doubt with Alfredo Morelos getting his name on the scoresheet.
After winning a Kent corner in the air, Ross McCrorie was able to turn and slip the ball to the Colombian, who finished with aplomb.
That was to be his last action of the match, as before the restart, he was replaced by Eros Grezda, and he tested Doohan with a deflected effort from the edge of the area.
A lightning move from Gers which began with Ryan Kent running at the Ayr defence was almost ended by that same man, but Doohan was quick off his line to deny him.
Goal number four wasn’t long in coming though, and it was Glenn Middleton who grabbed his second of the night on 70 minutes.
Just like his first, Andy Halliday was the provider, but Middleton still had so much to do to wriggle his way between Mikey Rose and Jamie Adams before holding off Adams as he tried to recover to finish past Doohan.
Boss Gerrard then gave the Ibrox fans further cheer as he handed 18 year-old Stephen Kelly a competitive home debut having earlier thrown-on Jordan Rossiter as he continues his comeback from injury.
Middleton really should have completed his hat-trick in the 80th minute, firing wide after cutting into the area from the right after he was found by a ball from the other flank from the excellent Kent.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Flanagan, Katic, Worrall, Halliday; Ross McCrorie (Kelly, 69), Dorrans (Rossiter, 56), Ejaria; Kent, Middleton, Morelos (Grezda,50)
SUBS NOT USED: Robby McCrorie; Wallace, Goldson, Arfield.
AYR UNITED: Doohan, Harvie, Kerr, Rose, Geggan (Moffat, 52), Crawford, Forrest, Adams, Shankland (Moore, 76), Murdoch (McDaid, 65), Smith.
SUBS NOT USED: Hare-Reid, Ferguson, Bell, Docherty.
REFEREE: Bobby Madden