RANGERS progressed through to the semi-finals of the Betfred Cup with a powerful and thoroughly convincing win over Queen of the South.
Jason Holt opened his account for the season in the first-half with a close range finish, but at half-time the visitors were still in the tie and capable of getting back into the game.
The second half was a different story though, with the Light Blues shifting through the gears and finding the net with a ruthlessness which was missing in their previous three games when league points had been dropped.
Andy Halliday made it 2-0 with a tremendous finish after excellent link up play with substitute Barrie McKay before man of the match Martyn Waghorn took his tally to the season to eight with a stunning hat-trick.
Overall it was a great evening of entertainment for the Ibrox faithful to enjoy with Matt Crooks even making his long-awaited debut for the club and showing what he will bring to Mark Warburton’s side with his physical presence in the engine room.
The only down side to the night were injuries to Josh Windass, who appeared to pull up in the warm-up with a hamstring problem, and Jason Holt, who didn’t reappear for the second half.
The home side, with Kranjcar, captain for the night Halliday and Holt in midfield, enjoyed a lot of early possession but struggled to trouble former Gers keeper Lee Robinson in Queens’ goal.
At the other end of the pitch the Gers backline had to be focused with the in-form Derek Lyle and Stephen Dobbie lurking, and on 11 minutes Danny Wilson received the first yellow card of the match when he stopped a swift attack from the visitors with a body check on Dale Hilson.
With 20 minutes on the clock Rangers had been the dominant team in terms of ball retention, but Gavin Skelton must have been delighted with his side’s defensive work and the protection they were giving their number one up to that point.
Patience was again the key and on 33 minutes a goal arrived with Holt getting his first of the season.
Kranjcar fed the ball intelligently to O’Halloran on the right side of the Queens 18-yard box and he produced a five-yard burst of pace to get to the byline before crossing for Holt who side-footed the ball into the net from close range.
After a goalless draw against Ross County on Saturday, it was a relief to see the Light Blues get their noses in front on this occasion, and the goal immediately lifted the atmosphere in the ground along with the pressure that was building up on the players’ shoulders.
All of a sudden they were pushing forward with more intent and Queens’ four-man backline was creaking under the pressure.
A teasing, dinked cross from the lively Forrester almost found the head of Tavernier before Waghorn saw a thunderbolt shot blocked. Lee Hodson then found himself in the box but his curling right–foot effort narrowly missed the postage stamp corner of Robinson’s goal.
The confidence in the Rangers side was highlighted when Waghorn attempted a shot from the halfway line which had the Queens keeper back peddling nervously before he plucked the ball from the sky.
The Light Blues were unable to build on their lead prior to the interval but they were looking good with the visitors somewhat disappointing given their status as Championship leaders.
Warburton again had to shuffle his pack during the break with Holt not coming back out for the restart and Barrie McKay going on. The Gers number 19 joined Waghorn and O’Halloran in attack with Forrester dropping into midfield.
Six minutes in and the Light Blues came close to doubling their advantage when Andy Dowie’s weak back pass clipped Waghorn’s boot and the ball spun over Robinson and his crossbar.
After that scare the visitors then enjoyed their best spell of the game with Stephen Dobbie firing a low shot across Matt Gilks which went wide before his strike partner Derek Lyle blasted an effort over from a difficult angle.
Rangers really needed a second goal to provide a cushion and they got it on the hour mark with Halliday netting a cracker.
The midfielder skipped effortlessly past a marker before playing an inch-perfect pass to McKay on the left flank.
He motored past Queens’ right back and cut the ball back for Halliday who curled a left-foot effort high into the opposite side netting with aplomb.
Rangers were now flying after that moment of magic from their stand-in skipper and on 64 minutes McKay was again the supplier when Waghorn made it 3-0 with another sublime curling finish from 20 yards which beat Robinson low to his right.
It was one-way traffic now and Queens simply couldn’t cope with the pace and power Rangers were displaying.
On 70 minutes a fourth goal was added to the scoreline and again it was simple but effective.
O’Halloran received the ball on the right and his low cross was met by Waghorn who guided the ball confidently into the far corner of the net in front of a jubilant Copland Road Stand.
The introduction of Matt Crooks, making his Rangers debut, gave fans even more to cheer about and the 6’ 5” midfielder’s presence was evident straight away as he towered over the opponents in an impressive late cameo.
A fifth goal was not far away and again it was South Shields striker Waghorn who completed his hat-trick in style on 83 minutes after he was teed up by Kranjcar.
RANGERS: Gilks; Tavernier, Hill, Wilson, Hodson; Kranjcar, Halliday, Holt (McKay 45); O’Halloran (Miller 77), Waghorn, Forrester (Crooks 72)
SUBS: Foderingham, Garner, Dodoo, Senderos
Goals: Holt 33, Halliday 62, Waghorn 64, 70, 83
QUEEN OF THE SOUTH: Robinson; Hamill, Brownlie, Dowie, Marshall; Anderson (Dykes 48), Millar, Jacobs (Pickard 68), Hilson; Dobbie; Lyle (Brotherston 68)
SUBS: Atkinson, Higgins, Rigg, Moxon
Ref: Don Robertson