RANGERS stole all three points in Perth with three goals as Carlos Pena snatched his third and fourth Gers goals through a close range finish and a deft header before Graham Dorrans struck too.
It was truly a game of two halves as the first period limped by with neither side offering much in front of goal; Pena’s goal on 27 minutes was his side’s only chance on target. But after the break Rangers were a side rejuvenated as they stormed forward with wave upon wave of attack.
Despite a host of great chances it took Pedro Caixinha’s side some time to get their second. The Saints had captain Steven Anderson shown a second yellow on 71 minutes and that opened the door at the back.
The Mexican midfielder grabbed his second of the night with a superb run and then header at the back post seven minutes after the dismissal. Dorrans then finished things off with an unstoppable low drive four minutes from time.
With Bruno Alves restored to the Gers starting line-up following injury and Jason Holt in for the suspended Ryan Jack it was a quiet opening to the game in Perth.
17 minutes were gone when Rangers first caused Alan Mannus any concern. Josh Windass latched onto a ball out of the Saints defence to pounce on the volley and lash the ball wide of the upright from 25 yards out.
The home side had Rangers worried on 22 minutes when Graham Cummins beat Alves for pace as he burst through the middle and into the box. His left footed strike was powerful and rising and forced Wes Foderingham into a great stop – the Gers number one tipping the ball over the bar with a fingertip save.
Just before the half hour mark the Gers had their lead through Pena. Alfredo Morelos sent James Tavernier away down the right and the full-back sent in a typically swinging cross which landed in the six yard box. The ball reached Morelos first but the Colombian couldn’t get up high enough to bury the ball beyond Mannus. Thankfully for him Pena was lurking at the far post and tapped into the turf to send Caixinha’s side on their way.
Graham Dorrans had a dig from distance on 38 minutes but it was always rising and flew past the post as Mannus watched on untroubled.
Saints captain Steven Anderson reacted quickest to a corner a minute before the break as he hooked the ball into Cummins at the near post. The striker went close for a second time as he brushed the top of the net with his effort from close range with Foderingham staying imposing enough to put him off.
In truth it was a first-half with very little real action; both sides only managed one shot on target, St Johnstone through Cummins’ earlier chance and the Light Blues through their goal.
The second period was a whole different story as Rangers came storming out of the traps. Morelos was denied eight minutes into it as Mannus saved with his feet. With most of the St Johnstone defence assuming the Colombian was offside, he knicked the ball off them and turned to try and beat the keeper from a few yards out. It was a taste of what was to come from the Gers.
Foderingham was then forced into action after conceding a corner. The Gers keeper got down low to turn a header round the post as the Saints’ man on the post failed to sneak it in.
Pena then went close twice in succession, his first chance when Tavernier came off the flank to play him in high up the box. The Mexican span to face the goal and while his ultimate strike was weak and bounced along a deflection meant it creeped just by the far post. The 28-year-old then profited from good link up play between Tavernier and Daniel Candeias, the latter laying the ball into his path, before nearly finding the bottom corner.
Cummins glanced a header wide on 63 minutes for the home side as he travelled backwards to latch onto a dangerous looking corner at the back post. That was Tommy Wright’s side’s sixth corner in a row and they looked to be gaining some confidence but with 29 minutes left to play they saw themselves down to 10 men. Anderson tugged back Morelos just the other side of the half-way line as the striker looked to pull clear into space and Don Robertson showed him his second yellow of the evening.
Rangers nearly profited from their man advantage instantly as Windass cut a ball back onto the edge of the area and Pena, who was in a central position shot low at Mannus. The Saints went straight up the other end though and went close themselves, sub Craig Thomson rising high in front of Foderingham’s upright to nod at the keeper.
Pena’s chances had been racking up and he had his second of the night with 79 minutes on the clock. Tavernier sent a ball in from deep and the summer signing from Liga MX got the deftest of touches onto the ball with his head to guide the ball home. His run through the area had gone unnoticed and he didn’t break stride before the ball touched the back of the net. His reception from the Rangers fans wrapped around McDairmid Park when he made way for Ross McCrorie on 85 minutes spoke for itself.
Dorrans had nearly made it three when he cracked a shot from distance and sent Mannus scrambling to save. And just a minute later he made no mistake to make sure of the Gers third. The referee played advantage when Morelos was felled on the edge of the box, Holt pounced on the ball and squared neatly to Dorrans who was storming into the area. The boyhood fan smacked it first time into the bottom corner to round things off.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Cardoso, Alves, John, Dorrans, Holt, Pena (McCrorie 85’), Candeias, Morelos (Herrera 87’), Windass (Nemane 90’).
Subs not used: Alnwick, Hodson, Barjonas, Dalcio .
Goals: Pena 27’ 78’ Dorrans 84’
Yellows: Windass 41’ John 60’ Alves 64’ Dorrans 80’
ST JOHNSTONE: Mannus, Shaughnessy, Anderson, Millar (Paton 69’), Davidson, MacLean (Johnstone 81’), Wotherspoon, Comrie, Scougall, Easton, Cummins (Thomson 73’)
Subs not used: Clark, Tanser, Gordon, Craig.
Yellows: Anderson 64’ Paton 80’
Red: Anderson 71’