Rangers are Par four the course

RANGERS bounced back from their Boxing Day blip in stunning style - with an emphatic away win over their nearest SPFL League One rivals.

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Jon Daly celebrates Rangers' second goal which Nicky Clark nicked from him
Jon Daly celebrates Rangers' second goal which Nicky Clark nicked from him

Goals from Fraser Aird, Nicky Clark, Nicky Law and Robbie Crawford killed off the challenge of second-placed Dunfermline at East End Park. Ally McCoist's side, who have a game in hand on their challengers, moved 14 points clear at the top of the table with the convincing triumph.

The Ibrox club had been heavily criticised by their own fans when their record-breaking winning run was ended by part-time Stranraer at home last week.

So this highly impressive all-round team display - arguably the Light Blues' best of the campaign - and triumph was the perfect response.

It ensured Rangers ended what has been an often difficult year on a massive high and can look forward with optimism to the challenges that lie ahead in 2014.

McCoist made two changes to the side that had started against Stranraer last week. Both Lewis Macleod and Arnold Peralta found themselves on the bench. Steven Smith came in for Macleod on the left side of midfield for his first start since the league game against Brechin at Glebe Park back in October.

Meanwhile, Fraser Aird, who has been so bright in the matches he has been involved in in recent weeks, was preferred to Peralta on the right flank.

The home team could have opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute when Jordan Moore burst clean through on goal.

Sebastien Faure, though, raced back and dispossessed him. The visitors had a chance to take the lead just a minute later after Lee Wallace had sent Smith clear with a deft header.

His shot missed the target narrowly. But Dunfermline enjoyed the best of the early exchanges. Cammy Bell was called on to produce saves from goal-bound shots from Moore, Stephen Husband and Ryan Wallace.

Yet, Rangers responded well to that sustained pressure. Aird netted a fine individual effort in the 22nd minute after receiving the ball from Law on the right flank.

The teenage winger cut inside and advanced towards the edge of the opposition penalty box before unleashing a left-foot shot beyond the clutches of Ryan Scully.

The Dunfermline keeper did well to prevent Rangers forging further ahead in the 42nd minute when he denied Jon Daly a goal with his outstretched leg.

Scully showed impressive reactions just before half-time to block a Clark shot. Aird pounced on the rebound and turned a shot towards goal.

His effort lacked sufficient power to make it over the goal-line and he was denied his second of the evening when Lewis Martin cleared the ball to safety.

With a near-capacity crowd crammed into East End Park for the festive fixture - the attendance was 10,089 - a great atmosphere was generated by both sets of supporters.

With such backing, it was not hard to recall that just two seasons ago theserivals were competing in the top flight. Much, of course, has happened since then at both clubs. There were, as had very much been the case in the previous meeting between these two sides at the start of November, a few wholehearted challenges made.

It was not, however, as bad-tempered an encounter as the game at Ibrox, when three Rangers players had ended up being treated in hospital.

But referee Craig Charleston, who controlled the top-of-the-table clash well, still booked five players. Both Aird and Bilel Mohsni found themselves being yellow-carded.

Rangers struck what, even at that early stage, appeared to be a killer blow early in the second half when they netted from an inswinging Aird corner.

Daly rose and diverted the cross towards goal with his head. It was clearly going into the net, but Clark, like all good strikers, gave it a little help to claim it.

Smith, who had put in an excellent shift despite not playing in his favoured position at left-back, hobbled off injured shortly after his team had gone 2-0 in front. Macleod replaced him.

Richard Foster made his comeback from the ankle injury he had sustained against Dunfermline last month when he came on for Clark in the 69th minute. Foster went to straight to right-back and Faure moved across to protect the back four in a holding midfielder's role just behind Law and Ian Black.

McCoist's side went 3-0 ahead almost immediately after the reshuffle. Macleod supplied Law who dinked the ball cheekily over the outstretched Scully and into the net.

Black was once again subjected to some physical treatment from Dunfermline. He came off with 10 minutes to go and was replaced by Crawford.

He rounded off the rout in injury-time with a powerful drive to make the scoreline 4-0 and complete a thoroughly satisfying evening for the Govan club and their followers.

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