STEVEN GERRARD enjoyed the best possible start to his reign as Rangers manager with his new-look squad confidently beating English League Two side Bury.
An incredible crowd of 41,015 decided to travel to Ibrox to take in tonight’s friendly match instead of watching the World Cup action on TV, and they were rewarded for their loyalty with the Light Blues in fine form on a glorious night in Govan.
Goals from the impressive Jamie Murphy and debutants Nikola Katic and Scott Arfield put Gerrard’s side 3-0 up at the break and their dominance continued in the second period with Arfield, Alfredo Morelos and young striker Zak Rudden adding to the scoreline.
The Shakers struggled to cope with Rangers’ attacking play throughout the 90 minutes with the Light Blue debutants playing with great enthusiasm and the same can be said for all the Acadamy kids who got their first run outs in front of a packed Ibrox.
The manager, wearing an all-black Hummel tracksuit, started the match with a 4-1-4-1 formation with a back four of James Tavernier and Jon Flanagan on the right and left flanks and Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic in the heart of the defence.
Ross McCrorie featured in the holding midfield role with Josh Windass and Jamie Murphy on the right and left wings respectively and Scott Arfield and, interestingly, Daniel Candeias taking up central positions.
Morelos was utilised as the lone striker and with just a minute on the clock the Colombian’s first-time pass allowed Windass to get in behind the Bury defence. His cutback cross from the right went back to El Bufalo but his shot was deflected over.
It was a bright start from the home side however and they deservedly opened the scoring with just seven minutes showing on the stadium’s electronic scoreboards.
A lovely flowing move on the right resulted in Candeias playing a low cross into the box. Bury keeper Matthew Hudson could only palm the ball out under pressure from Morelos and Murphy was there to role the ball into the empty net.
There was excellent intensity and desire in Rangers’ play, just what Gerrard demands, and this was highlighted in the 20th minute when Ross McCrorie cemented Neil Danns with a powerful but fair challenge which left a huge hole in the lush Ibrox turf.
Three minutes later Jon Flanagan launched himself into a tackle in front of home dugout which left winger Byron Moore sprawled on the turf.
Referee Kevin Clancy didn’t go to his pocket for a card but did have a word in the left back’s ear for having a bit too much enthusiasm on this occasion.
On the half-hour mark Rangers doubled their advantage with 21-year-old Katic netting a debut goal which he understandably enjoyed.
The towering defender’s shot appeared to lack power but it bobbled over the hands of goalkeeper Hudson and into the bottom left corner of the net.
It was a somewhat bizarre goal for the visitors to concede but the big Croatian wasn’t caring as he sprinted towards the Union Bears to celebrate a memorable moment in his blossoming career.
Things got even better for the Light Blues in the 35th minute as they made it 3-0.
Murphy again took up an excellent advanced position and his netbound shot was parried by Hudson but Arfield was there to slot it home in front of an ecstatic Broomloan Road Stand.
The manager made just one change to his team at the interval with Declan John replacing Flanagan and Rangers, wearing their stunning new royal blue home kit, kept the pressure on as they went in search of a fourth goal.
Just three minutes in a good chance fell to Windass in space but his spectacular overhead kick hit a defender and went out for a corner.
The Gers number 11 then cut a frustrated figure on the hour mark as he nutmegged Bury’s left-back to get a sight on goal but his shot clipped the wrong side of the far post.
At this point the former Accrington man was the most dangerous player on the pitch and when he received the ball 20 yards from goal he curled a powerful effort around a defender but it went a foot wide of goal.
On 62 minutes Gerrard made a triple switch, with Ryan Jack and Andy Halliday replacing McCrorie and Candeias while fans also got a first glimpse of young winger Glenn Middleton.
The former Norwich City starlet joined the Gers in January and his impact was immediate as he teed up Arfield for Rangers’ fourth goal on 65 minutes.
The Scotland youth internationalist darted into Bury’s 18-yard box and his cutback cross for his teammate was perfect as he had the simplest of tasks to pass the ball into the net.
The changes continued in the second forty-five, with Aidan Wilson replacing Katic and Greg Docherty taking the place of the industrious Arfield.
The former Hamilton midfielder immediately tested Hudson with an explosive drive from distance which the keeper could only palm out of play.
From the short corner Windass took possession and his whipped, right-foot cross to the back post was perfect for Morelos who gleefully nodded the ball into the net for Rangers’ fifth.
Three more substitutions were made by Gerrard after the goal with Rudden, winger Serge Atakayi and full-back Lee Hodson going on, and it was Rudden who got his side’s sixth.
Middleton was again the provider, using his skill and pace to beat two defenders and his cross was perfect for Rudden who slotted it home from close range.
The Rangers fans were clearly enjoying their night and no wonder.
It was an evening of so many positives for the club with Gerrard in the technical area, six goals scored and so many players impressing on their debuts.
It is early days of course but this indeed could be the start of a bright new era for the Light Blues.
RANGERS: McGregor (McCrorie 79), Tavernier (Hodson 72), Goldson (Bradley 79), Katic (Wilson 69), Flanagan (John 45), McCrorie (Jack 62), Windass (Atakayi 72), Candeias (Halliday 62), Arfield (Docherty 69), Murphy (Middleton 62), Morelos (Rudden 72)
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly
GOALS: Murphy 7, Katic 31, Arfield 35, 65, Morelos 70, Rudden 75
BURY: Hudson, Miller, Thompson, Shotton, Skarz, Mayor, Moore, Danns, Styles, Dawson, Dagnall
SUBS: Adams, Burgess, O’Connell, Adams, Aimson, Moloney, Cooney, Nyapembe, Whelan, McFadzean, Omotayo
Ref: Kevin Clancy