AT FULL-TIME “Summer Holiday” rang out on the PA system and this game looked as if it could have all the hallmarks of an end of season contest after a muted opening. But Rangers turned the screw on the Saints and dominated proceedings at McDairmid Park.
Kenny Miller brought things alive for Pedro Caixinha’s men when he produced a great finish to fire his side ahead five minutes before the break. Before that the Gers had offered little in front of goal while St Johnstone had gone close on a number of occasions.
It was a different story in the second-half with Jon Toral signing off his Rangers career with a well taken third goal for the club. James Tavernier was the man to be applauded for the second after some superb work down the right.
Rangers should have had it sewn up with Martyn Waghorn denied twice but the home side threatened to come back into it when Graham Cummins scored on 74 minutes. Caixinha’s men hung on though to end the season with a win.
St Johnstone nearly struck first when Blair Alston profited from a James Tavernier mistake on six minutes. The full-back allowed the ball to loop over his head, which meant Alston could head across the face of goal. Debutant Jak Alnwick didn’t have it covered with Steven MacLean sliding into the six yard box and he missed a connection by inches as the ball bounced the wrong side of the upright.
Rangers did little positive in the opening periods and it was probably summed up when Tavernier sent a promising looking free-kick well over with 17 minutes gone. Craig dragged one wide at the other end as the game crept into the 20th minute.
A couple of minutes later the Gers stood off Craig and he had another crack from distance – sending a whirling driven effort to Alnwick’s right. The January recruit was at full-stretch and watched as the ball whizzed past the post.
St Johnstone were looking the more likely to grab an opener and on 25 minutes again they threatened. This time Craig Thomson lashed a low finish agonisingly wide for the Saints from the right of the box.
Miller sent the Light Blues the closest they had been to goal just shy of the half hour mark. Toral picked out the striker with a lovely ball over the top and the 37-year-old tried to steer it into the net with his first touch at the far post but instead the ball shaved the crossbar.
Toral had a chance of his own four minutes later, turning and shooting on the perimeter of the box but the Spaniard put too much on it and dragged it wide. Windass too pulled a shot wide of the same post before his side made their breakthrough.
Rangers looked like they would go into the second-half without making much impact on the game but they countered after Alnwick had held a good long range shot from Chris Kane and Miller struck for his 14th of the campaign. The veteran forward combined with his striker partner Martyn Waghorn in a quick exchange to send him down the right. Waghorn cut back into the path of Miller and he drove the ball home on a diagonal from 15 yards. It was just the boost the Gers needed.
Alnwick was tested as soon as the game resumed – Craig getting the ball out from under his feet to shoot powerfully at the former Newcastle man. He did well to get two hands to it and tip the ball over the crossbar. That wasn’t to be a marker for the second period though as the visitors took control of the game.
Within eight minutes Rangers had doubled their lead through Toral. Tavernier did all the work as he cruised down the wing and then by-passed a trio of Saints men to wriggle his way along the by-line and set up the Arsenal loanee. Toral’s finish was clean as he nestled the ball into Alan Mannus’ bottom corner.
Waghorn could have made it three moments later when he turned quickly to shake off a defender eight yards out. Windass had set the move up for the striker with a great run through the middle but when the 27-year-old rearranged his feet to tee the shot up he fired over.
The Gers top scorer had another bite when Miller played him in over the top and he took it down neatly between two defenders with 74 mibutes gone. He shot at Mannus though.
St Johnstone pegged Caixinha’s side back with 14 minutes left to play. After making inroads down the right the Rangers defence failed to clear a good cross and Hurst nicked a ball round the corner to play in sub Cummins. He drove low and beyond Alnwick to give his side some hope in the game.
They could have been level moments later had it not been for the body of Alnwick. The keeper finding himself pressed into service in the second-half. This time MacLean powered a shot into the torso of the keeper who got low to block his close range effort.
Jamie Barjonas had done brilliantly on his first start for the club and nearly had the icing on the cake when he cut inside to shoot powerfully on 88 minutes. Mannus scrambled to his right to deny the 18-year-old a first Rangers goal though.
RANGERS: Alnwick, Tavernier, A. Wilson, Bates, Beerman, Holt, Barjonas (Halliday 89’), Toral (McKay 75’), Windass, Waghorn (Bradley 84’), Miller
Subs not used: Foderingham, Dodoo, Lyon, Atakayi.
Goals: Miller 40’ Toral 53’
Yellows: Toral 55′ Waghorn 81’
ST JOHNSTONE: Mannus, Scobbie, Alston, Millar, MacLean, Shaughnessy, Foster, Easton, Kane (Cummins 45’), Craig, Thomson (Hurst 68’)
Subs not used: Clark, Anderson, Paton, Gilchrist, Jardine
Goals: Cummins 76’
Yellows: Craig 15’