Blues must prove to be marathon men as sprint nears its end

The immediate road ahead holds nothing but inevitability; there are no twists and turns in this one, no drama and certainly no tension; no helicopters needed these days.

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David Templeton netted a brace as Rangers easily brushed aside Clyde at Broadwood
David Templeton netted a brace as Rangers easily brushed aside Clyde at Broadwood

Rangers moved 22 points clear at the top of the Irn-Bru Third Division on Saturday afternoon with a performance that was every bit as one-sided as the 4-1 scoreline suggests.

The resistance offered from Clyde was little more than that of the kid brother dummying around with an elder sibling. Rangers were able to hold Jim Duffy's men at arm's length and swat them off without barely breaking sweat in the process.

The major pluses, though, will be the contribution of David Templeton and Andy Little.

The former netted two cracking strikes, while the latter hit a brace to take his tally to 20 for the season.

The Northern Irishman has finally managed to get himself in possession of a striker's jersey at the club after waiting patiently for his chance to prove himself at the apex of the Light Blue attack.

Truth be told, though, Rangers should be hammering those who flounder in their wake.

Ally McCoist's side may be nowhere near the side of even last season, but they are a million miles ahead of the part-timers that they are currently up against.

The question now is when, rather than if, will the title be wrapped up? If Rangers continue at their current rate it could be in the bag before the end of March.

If Queen's Park, Peterhead and Montrose stumble along the way then it could potentially be even earlier.

In many respects, that day will be celebrated by a Rangers support who have defiantly followed the club this season in the bottom tier as lustily as any other title. But the issue of what follows on from it is a little more troubling.

League proposals to re-jig the divisions are still up in the air. Rangers have made their feelings on the matter quite clear. But even aside from facing up to familiar opponents being taken out of the equation and they simply move up to the Second Division, it does not become that much more palatable.

The bottom line is that the football at this level is as any observer would expect; routine, dogged and by enlarge not particularly pretty.

And it is a far cry from former times when the Ibrox club boasted some of Europe's best within their ranks.

Which in many ways is why Rangers need to approach the remainder of the games with the kind of fire in their belly that they had at the beginning of this season.

They need to play as though they have a point to prove because at least that way there is a chance that you get a glimpse of Templeton's goals, a flash of colour from the young crop in what would otherwise have been a drab and monotonous 90 minutes.

The former Hearts winger has netted 11 goals this season so far and his eagerness for the step-overs, the feints and the little tricks at least give the Light Blue legions something to applaud.

But when this particular episode has finished when the Ibrox side eventually work their way through the leagues, it will be remembered as nothing more than a surreal endurance test.

The Ibrox support deserve applause for the manner in which they have stuck by their side, turning up here, there and everywhere as well as filling seats at Ibrox week in, week out to watch relatively poor fare.

The test of their mettle will be maintaining that, because the immediate future is simply for more of the same.

With no cup competitions to look forward to, once the title is in the bag, it will be an aimless saunter to the end of the season.

McCoist's hope then could be for the likes of Kevin Kyle and Francisco Sandaza to come back into the team following their injury problems and settle in a bit more.

Sandaza had a tough few months by fracturing his cheekbone not long after joining the club. He returned before being sidelined yet again and McCoist would ideally like the Spaniard to bag a few goals in the run-in to give his confidence a bit of a boost.

But, as the recent display in the William Hill Scottish Cup tie against Dundee United showed, there is still a long way for this Rangers team to go.

They are head and shoulders above everyone in the Third Division but it will take some time before they have a full squad capable of taking the club back to the very top echelons of the game.

What happens between now and then is ultimately where the focus must be.

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