RANGERS returned to New Tinto Park after the summer break looking to pick up where they left off in Govan, but ended up going down to Stirling University in a five goal thriller.
After the narrow away defeat against Forfar Farmington a fortnight ago, Gers made two changes, with Chelsie Watson and Sarah Robertson dropping to the bench and out of the squad respectively and Leah Eddie slotting back in alongside Gillian Inglis, who was making her Rangers debut after recently joining from Hamilton Academical.
Despite Rangers starting on the front foot in the opening ten minutes, it was Stirling who made the early breakthrough, as ex-Rangers player Lauren Doran Barr came back to haunt the fans at New Tinto, as she found herself open on the left side of the penalty after an Abby Callaghan pass and calmly slotted the ball under Khym Ramsay.
Rangers did not let the early setback phase them, and they continued to press for a quick response and had some joy down the left side through new signing Inglis. The first test for Stirling goalkeeper Chloe Logan came from an Inglis free kick which was headed goalward by Eddie but was comfortably saved to preserve Stirling’s early lead.
The away side then had a great chance to double their lead as a wayward kick from Ramsay landed at the feet of Bonsall who cut inside, and instead of passing to an open teammate, shot on goal but it was easily dealt with in the end by Ramsay.
The chances continued to come for both sides and it was Rangers turn for a glorious opportunity on the back of Stirling’s spurned opportunity, as Brogan Hay caught a long ball down the right-hand side, cut inside and passed to Nic Pullar who flicked the ball into the path of Jade Gallon, but she got under the ball and blasted her shot over the crossbar.
Just after the half hour mark, the Rangers pressure paid off. Three corners followed, and it was from the last that Rangers’ deserved equaliser came. The corner was played short to Chantelle Brown who took a touch and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the bottom right hand corner to make it 1-1.
However, Stirling responded instantly, as a freekick on the left was floated into the box by Lisa Sutherland, Ramsay came for it but was beaten to the ball by Demi Falconer who flicked her header into an empty net.
Rangers nearly had an instant reply of their own moments later when Clare Gemmell fired a lovely crossfield pass over to Brown on the left, and she cut inside, beat her defender to leave her one on one with the goalkeeper but pulled her shot wide of the goal when she really should have hit the target.
Just before half time Rangers had an appeal for a penalty turned down, after Gemmell controlled a clipped pass over the top from Hay and was tackled on the edge of the six-yard box but the referee waved away the claims as Stirling went into the interval with the slender lead.
Rangers came out and got the start to the second half which home manager Amy McDonald would have been thrilled with. With the second half less than two minutes old, Pullar controlled a high ball brilliantly, swivelled and fired a looping volley across goalkeeper Logan into the far corner for her first goal in a blue shirt.
Jade Gallon then had another excellent chance after some fine work starting in the Rangers half. Pullar nodded the ball into the path of Gemmell who released Brown on the left with a searching through ball and Brown intelligently looked up, cut the ball back for Gallon again, but again Gallon got underneath the ball and shot over the bar.
Another great chance came and went for the Light Blues from a free kick on the right, as Brown picked out the run of Gemmell who, in acres of space, hit her side footed volley wide of the target, perhaps unaware of the time and space she had.
The profligate home side were nearly made to pay just a minute later as Stirling broke down the left and crossed the ball into the six-yard box but a fantastic goal-saving tackle from Eddie kept the scores level.
McDonald then made her first substitutions of the match as Holly Napier and Carla Boyce came on to replace Pullar and Jade Gallon and the two combined just minutes later. Boyce nipped inside and played a lovely reverse pass behind the defence into Napier in the box, but her shot was parried, and the danger was cleared as Rangers were yet again kept at bay.
However, in the last minute of normal time and against the run of play, Stirling’s Eva Rule cleared a long ball down the right side and Kendra Bonsall got to it ahead of the defender and whipped a fierce strike across Ramsay into the far corner to stun the home support and snatch all three points away from Rangers.
RANGERS: Ramsay, Muir, Eddie, Lauren Gallon, Inglis, Gemmell, Jade Gallon, Hay, Brown, Pullar.
SUBS: Donnelly, Baillie, Watson, Coakley, Boyce, Napier.