Rangers are Ayr lifted in title ascent

IT was inevitable Rangers' achievements, as they made their way back to the top flight, would be dismissed by many.

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Nicky Law turns the ball in for Rangers' first against Ayr
Nicky Law turns the ball in for Rangers' first against Ayr

Their full-time status has certainly given them a distinct edge over the part-time opponents they have faced in the lower leagues this season and last.

And their superior resources also mean they can attract a level of player, established internationalists, who their smaller rivals can only dream of landing.

So when they win games, little positivity is forthcoming. And when they draw or lose games it is greeted with widespread derision.

But only the most blinkered observer would begrudge Rangers some praise for the run of form they have put together in the 2013/14 campaign.

The 2-0 victory over Ayr United at Somerset Park on Saturday stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 30 games. It was, too, their ninth victory in a row.

The extra-time loss to Forfar Athletic away at Station Park in August - a reverse they suffered without their summer acquisitions - remains their solitary defeat.

The Ayr game was also the 15th occasion this term they have kept a clean sheet away from home.

Only once, against Brechin way back in October, have they conceded on the road in the league.

No matter what the circumstances surrounding it, that is a remarkable statistic of which the defenders responsible, and their coaches, should feel rightly proud.

The two goals that Nicky Law and Jon Daly netted in Ayrshire also took the number of goals Ally McCoist's side has scored since the season kicked off back in July to 98.

Given that Rangers beat Stenhousemuir 8-0 the last time they played them at Ibrox back in September, you would not bet against them smashing through the 100 mark against them this weekend.

Of course, far sterner challenges await in the William Hill Scottish Cup - if, as is likely, they beat Albion Rovers at home in the quarter-finals next month.

But McCoist, his assistants and his charges do deserve some applause for how they have gone about their business.

Certainly the manager, who continues to meet with chief executive Graham Wallace on a regular basis to discuss the way ahead for the financially troubled club, feels that progress is being made.

He said: "I don't know if we would necessarily have lost the game against Ayr 12 months ago, but we definitely have got a bit more about us this season.

"We are better and we have got more solidity about us.

"We are definitely stronger in certain areas when we are being put under pressure."

HE ADDED: "Having said that, we have still got miles to go. It was a great result for us on Saturday at what is a tough place to go to. It was a brilliant three points.

"The finishing line is obviously there, but we are not looking any further than the next game."

The display of the Rangers defence - which was shorn of the services of the suspended centre-half duo of Lee McCulloch and Bilel Mohsni - especially pleased McCoist at the weekend.

And the inspired performance of Rangers goalkeeper Cammy Bell impressed both the manager and his celebrated former team-mate Andy Goram sitting in the opposition dugout.

McCoist said: "I was delighted with Emilson Cribari and Seb Faure. Big Kevin Kyle can be a handful for any centre-back pairing and they dealt with him well.

"In the second half it was important that we didn't drop back deep and allow them to get into the box.

"Cammy made some brilliant saves. He is doing well and should be very proud of that.

"On Saturday he produced as good a performance as you would see from any goalkeeper in the country.

"Throughout history, Rangers goalkeepers have always been called upon to make saves at crucial times after the team have had large amounts of possession.

"Cammy did that against Ayr on Saturday. I spoke to Andy after the game and he thought he was very, very good.

" He got a bit of stick, too, being an ex-Kilmarnock boy."

Fraser Aird set up Law for the first goal in the first minute of the second half. The teenage winger stormed into the opposition area and unleashed a shot that his team mate turned in.

Rangers built on their lead on the hour mark. Lee Wallace curled a killer ball into the Ayr penalty box and Daly headed it beyond David Hutton and into the net.

It rounded off a highly- satisfactory afternoon's work for the Glasgow club. There have been a few of them of late and there promise to be a few more to come.

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