RANGERS enjoyed a comfortable pre-season win over League One side Oxford United at Ibrox, with Daniel Candeias, Greg Stewart, Lewis Mayo, Sheyi Ojo and Jermain Defoe getting the goals.
The friendly match was a good workout for the Light Blues with the U’s putting in a lot of graft in what was their first game of the summer as they build-up towards the 2019/20 campaign.
Rangers’ quality, however, proved too much for Karl Robinson’s men on this occasion and the scoreline at the final whistle was a fair reflection on the entertaining 90 minutes that had gone before.
Steven Gerrard named four of his summer signings in his starting eleven with George Edmundson, Joe Aribo, Jake Hastie and Stewart all in the line-up for kick-off and impressing on their home debuts.
Edmundson joined Nikola Katic in the centre of defence and looked solid, with right back Matt Polster and Andy Halliday on the left making up the back four in front of goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.
The athletic Aribo joined Glen Kamara and Greg Docherty in the engine room with the energetic Hastie and Daniel Candeias adding width to the side and Stewart utlilised as the lone striker.
With a crowd of 22,156 in attendance, including a packed away section, referee Nick Walsh got the action underway and on three minutes a low delivery into the box from Polster was met by the former Kilmarnock and Aberdeen forward Stewart, but his first-time shot went wide.
The visiting supporters were then out of their seats for the first time on 10 minutes when Rob Hall’s powerful left-foot shot rippled the side netting at Alnwick’s near post.
The opening goal arrived on 15 minutes and it was all about Candeias’ powerful running and his composure to find the net.
With the visitors pushing players up the pitch Stewart produced a great through pass to his Portuguese teammate who sprinted 30 yards towards Simon Eastwood’s goal with two players in yellow unable to catch him. Candeias then put on the brakes and showed his quality to beat the U’s keeper with an excellent finish.
Oxford looked to respond quickly to going behind with Alnwick making a straight forward save from James Henry’s shot. At the other end of the pitch Greg Docherty had his hands on his head after his low drive from distance went agonisingly wide.
Rangers went 2-0 up on 31 minutes and it was a great moment for summer signing Stewart. Wearing the number 24 shirt, the 29-year-old powered an accurate left-foot shot into the far corner of the net in front of the Broomloan Road Stand.
Rangers were now shifting through the gears and a brilliant passage of play from Andy Halliday, wearing the captain’s armband with James Tavernier on the bench, almost carved out a third goal.
Running from his left-back berth he played a clever one-two with Candeias as he entered Oxford’s 18-yard box but his goal-bound finish was tipped around the post superbly by Eastwood.
If that was good what Nikola Katic produced on 39 minutes was even better. The big Croatian – to the surprise of everyone in the stadium – unleashed a thunderbolt from distance which smashed off the crossbar.
The half-time interval, as expected, brought several changes with Wes Foderingham, Steven Davis, Connor Goldson, and Academy kids Lewis Mayo and Josh McPake replacing Alnwick, Kamara, Katic, Edmundson and Hastie.
And with 52 minutes on the clock 19-year-old centre half Mayo was in dreamland as he netted his first goal at first team level.
Halliday delivered a wicked cross into the box and Mayo powered a header at Eastwood who made an initial save but when a defender then tried to clear the ball hit the Gers youngster and went into the net.
On the hour mark Gerrard made the last of his outfield changes with James Tavernier, Borna Barisic, Jamie Barjonas, Ryan Jack, Sheyi Ojo, Jermain Defoe and Jordan Jones going on for Polster, Halliday, Aribo, Docherty, Candeias, Stewart and McPake.
After the club’s pre-season trip to Portugal, all the Gers players looked sharp, fit and strong, with new signings Ojo and Jones giving fans a glimpse of their attacking threat and pace in the latter stages of the match.
Indeed, it was Ojo, who is on loan from Liverpool, who made it 4-0 when he darted into the 18-yard box from the right flank on 70 minutes and his left foot curler beat Oxford’s substitute keeper Jack Stevens and clipped the inside of the far post before going in.
Jermain Defoe then completed the scoring from close range as he added a fifth to the delight of the Ibrox faithful.
With five goals scored this afternoon and another clean sheet recorded after victories over Mansfield Town and TNS, Gerrard will no doubt be pleased with the progress made as his side prepare to return to competitive action in the Europa League against St Joseph’s on Tuesday night.
RANGERS: Alnwick (Foderingham 45), Polster (Tavernier 60), Katic (Mayo 45), Edmundson (Goldson 45), Halliday (Barisic 60), Docherty (Jack 60), Kamara (Davis 45), Aribo (Barjonas 60), Candeias (Ojo 60), Stewart (Defoe 60), Hastie (McPake 45 (Jones 60))
SUBS NOT USED: Firth
GOALS: Candeias 16, Stewart 32, Mayo 52, Ojo 70, Defoe 88