Dream boat still afloat as Rangers finally sink Rovers

ALBION ROVERS adopted a 'dare to dream' motto through their fairy tale run in the William Hill Scottish Cup.

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Fraser Aird fires Rangers in front after 17 minutes against Albion Rovers at New Douglas Park
Fraser Aird fires Rangers in front after 17 minutes against Albion Rovers at New Douglas Park

Now it is Rangers who are wondering what might be and setting their sights on the silverware after booking their place in the last four of the competition last night.

It may have taken Ally McCoist's side 90 minutes longer than they had originally planned but the SPFL League One champions overcame their part-time opponents at the second time of asking, a 2-0 victory at New Douglas Park arguably their biggest result of the campaign so far.

Having already wrapped up Scotland's third-tier crown and a place in the Ramsdens Cup final, it is Scotland's top knock-out competition that will show just how much progress McCoist and his players have made on the journey back to the top of our game.

A semi-final meeting with Dundee United will provide them with the sternest test of the campaign but, with that tie set to be played at Ibrox and the final, against Aberdeen or St Johnstone, pencilled in for Celtic Park, it is the Light Blue legions who are daring to dream.

They sang about being there when the Gers go up to lift the Scottish Cup last night but McCoist will know that his side will have to significantly up their game if they are to overcome two Premiership clubs and add a 34th Scottish Cup success to their illustrious honour roll.

Rangers came under a barrage of fire from their own support for a shocking display in their first meeting with Albion last weekend and while they were far from their best last night, an improved showing was enough to finally end Rovers' memorable cup run at the quarter-final stage.

The debate about the balance between winning games and playing entertaining football has come to the fore once again in recent weeks at Ibrox but it was all about the result last night, Rangers ensuring they didn't make the same mistake twice as they eased past James Ward's side.

Rovers arrived in Hamilton confident that they could cause another shock but it was McCoist who sprung the first surprise of the evening as Calum Gallagher and Kyle Hutton were handed starting jerseys for the cup clash.

Gallagher made an instant impact on his Gers bow against Dunfermline at the weekend as he clinched the three points with a late goal on the day his midfield counterpart also got a run out against the Pars as he continues his rehabilitation from a second lengthy injury lay-off of the season.

While Hutton struggled to get going in a congested battle in the middle of the park, his Murray Park peer was going some way to impress the Light Blue legions with another decent display.

It was the young forward who would find a way to unlock the stubborn Rovers rearguard and help McCoist's side into a lead that had been coming as pressure built in the opening minutes.

Gallagher swung in a teasing cross from the right flank and it was Fraser Aird who would get on the end of it, the Canadian kid finishing in style beyond Neil Parry in the Albion goal to put Rangers ahead with 17 minutes on the clock.

It was a lead McCoist would have hoped his side would have extended before the break but after Cammy Bell saved well to block a David Crawford strike, clear chances were in short supply in front of a 5354 crowd in Lanarkshire.

Bilel Mohsni, booed at every opportunity by the Rovers fans for his goal that earned Rangers a replay last week, saw an audacious effort from distance go just wide of Parry's post before he was forced into action to deny Gallagher his second goal in two games, the youngster firing straight at the keeper after neat play between Jon Daly and Richard Foster.

It was certainly an improvement on the first fixture but it was still hardly eye- catching stuff from Rangers.

They struggled to find a way through the two banks of red and yellow shirts, with their build-up play often laboured and final pass rarely clinical.

The action picked up where it left off after the break as Rangers controlled possession and knocked the ball about the artificial surface at New Douglas Park.

And while there was little swagger or verve, it didn't take them long to put the tie to bed.

Like in the Ibrox clash, crosses from both flanks were proving to be the Light Blues' most utilised ploy and, just minutes after Mohsni had headed wide from a corner, they doubled their lead thanks to another aerial strike.

It was Daly who would get the decisive touch this time, rising well to meet Foster's cross from the right wing and head across Parry and into the net.

Gallagher would see another shot saved before his night came to an end as he was replaced by Nicky Clark.

Sebastien Faure also got a run out for the Gers, the Frenchman taking Hutton's place in midfield as the Ibrox side settled for what they had.

There was no late rescue act needed this time around as the clock ticked down, with Rangers place in the semis secured and a date with United set for next month.

A challenge that proved far harder to overcome was finally conquered, but McCoist's side will have to rise to the occasion and up their game if they are to realise the ultimate dream this season.

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