All bets are off as Rangers romp to finish

THEY are the only thoroughbreds on show-and now the one-horse race is set to be a canter to the finish for Rangers.

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Ally McCoist is insistent the Third Division title is not won yet
Ally McCoist is insistent the Third Division title is not won yet

When Ally McCoist's side finally get their hands on the Irn-Bru Third Division title, it will hardly be the greatest of surprises.

It is a feat they were expected to achieve fairly comfortably from the moment they were banished to Scotland's bottom tier last summer and now the path to championship glory is clearer than ever.

There are, of course, hurdles that will have to be negotiated along the way, but after notching up their eighth successive league win on Saturday – a run that stretches back to their disastrous defeat against Stirling Albion in October – the Light Blues are stretching their legs, and their advantage, at a steady rate.

Gone, it seems, are the troubles on the road that blighted them in the opening weeks of the campaign and saw McCoist's side draw at Peterhead, Berwick and Annan before their Forthbank humbling.

Their last three away ties have now seen them hit 16 goals, with their 6-2 cruise at Borough Briggs on Saturday perhaps their most impressive as they blew away Elgin's hopes of a shock and any ambitions they had about keeping the title race competitive before we herald in the New Year.

Ross Jack's side did briefly threaten, with superb strikes from Daniel Moore and Mark Nicolson cancelling out two well-taken goals from Andy Little. But when Lee McCulloch netted just before the break and again on the hour mark to take his tally to an incredible 22 for the season, the writing was on the wall.

The ribbons are not yet on the Third Division trophy, however, with McCoist keen to stress that nothing has been won just yet after a result that takes Rangers nine points clear of their closest challengers with a game in hand.

"I wouldn't say the league is over and you won't find me saying that," he said. "We're in a good place and have earned the right to be where we are in the table.

"But we have a long way to go, we have got big games coming up and there is miles of football to go. The next three months will decide how it goes. But the job is far from done."

By the time those next twelve weeks have elapsed, Rangers' advantage at the top of the table will surely have grown even further, with even decent sides like Elgin unable to live with the quality McCoist has at his disposal as they were beaten for a third time this term.

The Borough Briggs clash, rescheduled to Saturday after the initial fixture was postponed due to safety reasons after City sold more than 1000 extra tickets, had all the hallmarks of a potential banana skin for Rangers.

They have learned how to play, and win, away from the hallowed turf at Ibrox, however, battling against a fired-up Elgin, sodden pitch and swirling wind to emerge victorious in some style.

Life in the Irn-Bru Third Division has been a steep learning curve for McCoist's squad but the signs are encouraging for the Light Blues.

During Ian Black's injury- enforced absence, Kyle Hutton was given another chance to partner the ever-present Lewis Macleod in the middle of the park, while Barrie McKay continues to show flashes of superb pace, skill and promise.

The central duo netted the final two goals of the afternoon to cap impressive showings, giving the travelling support, and their manager, plenty to be optimistic about for the future.

"Hutts has come in and taken his chance," McCoist said. "I keep saying to him to keep the ball moving quicker and earlier. He gets himself forward and I thought he had some great surging runs in the second half as well.

"One of the positives from that was he had his head lifted and he was looking about for players, whether it was McKay or (David) Templeton.

"You want players to grab their opportunities and, in Kyle's case, he is certainly doing that at the moment.

"It's great that him and Lewis are both still so young and doing so well. They're giving us a pleasant selection problem that I'd like in more areas."

With journeys to Montrose and Elgin now behind them, Rangers can look forward to a Boxing Day fixture at home to Clyde and derby-day against Queen's Park at Hampden within the next five days.

Six points will put them two steps closer to title glory, with their trip to the winners enclosure surely now sooner rather than later as they get set to canter over the line.

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