Rangers rhyme off another win to prevail in scrap battle

RANGERS survived another serious scare against Forfar at Station Park to storm 20 points clear at the top of SPFL League One.

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Bilel Mohsni led from the back  once again as the stopper hit Gers' opener at Forfar
Bilel Mohsni led from the back once again as the stopper hit Gers' opener at Forfar

The Ibrox club was knocked out of the League Cup at the Angus venue back in August in their second match of the season.

They were also lucky to escape with a 1-0 win on the artificial surface when they visited on league duty the following month.

And the surroundings did not prove to the liking of Ally McCoist's players once again last night as they had to scrap for a narrow victory.

But goals from Bilel Mohsni and David Templeton in the second half ensured a 2-0 scoreline as they edged further ahead of their nearest challengers Dunfermline.

It was a spirited if not especially silky performance that showed that being offered a pay cut last week had not affected their desire or focus.

Steve Simonsen was handed his first game for Rangers after the partner of regular keeper Cammy Bell went into labour during the day.

She gave birth to a baby girl and Simonsen, the vastly experienced English keeper who has spent spells at Stoke City and Sheffield United, started.

Elsewhere, Ricky Foster came in at right-back and Sebastien Faure, who had been keeping his team-mate out of the side there, moved into a holding midfielder's role.

Ian Black and Arnold Peralta were both missing having picked up suspensions in the games against Airdrie and Stenhousemuir respectively.

Elsewhere, Dean Shiels, who had scored a double in the 2-0 over East Fife at Ibrox nine days before, retained his place in the starting line-up. The fact that striker Nicky Clark has fractured a bone in a foot and is expected to be out for at least six weeks may have helped his cause.

But the Northern Ireland international had, despite not starting a game for over four months, performed brightly in his side's previous outing. And he merited his place in the starting line-up alongside Nicky Law in the centre of midfield in the 4-1-4-1 formation his manager favoured.

Forfar gave their opponents a scare just three minutes into the match after some good work by Martyn Fotheringham down the left wing. He whipped a cross into the visitors' six-yard box and Stuart Malcolm connected with a looping header that landed on top of the crossbar.

There were a few well-known faces in the Forfar squad; Rab Douglas and Darren Dods were both in the side, while Marvin Andrews was on the bench.

Douglas, the former Celtic and Scotland keeper, showed that he has lost none of his ability in the ninth minute when he denied a Law volley brilliantly.

Rangers had a penalty claim waved away in the 21st minute after Lee Wallace appeared to have been to be brought down by Dods in the area.

However, referee Stephen Finnie was unimpressed with the Scotland left-back's claims and the protests of the travelling support and allowed play to continue.

Finnie did, though, book two Rangers players during the first half as tempers flared. Lee McCulloch was yellow-carded for a challenge on Chris Templeman as was Bilel Mohsni for a late tackle on Malcolm as he burst towards goal.

Simonsen did well to deny an ambitious long-range attempt from Fotheringham in the 35th minute and a shot from Gavin Swankie just before half-time.

Douglas, too, produced a fine double save from first Fraser Aird and then Mohsni before the break as the sides went in level with the game tied at 0-0.

Gary Fusco was booked for a foul on Wallace shortly after the game restarted and moments later he brought down Lewis Macleod with a clumsy challenge. It took the teenage midfielder some time to recover from the incident and Fusco could consider himself very lucky not to be ordered from the field of play.

It was no surprise, then, when Forfar manager Dick Campbell susbstituted the offending player shortly after that and put on Mark Baxter.

The Rangers supporters in the 3,067 crowd were incensed when Finnie refused to award penalties to their side on not one but two occasions in the second half.

Centre-half Mohsni was bundled over in a dangerous position just a yard out before he could head the ball towards goal and then Dods handled.

McCulloch struck the crossbar with a powerful free-kick on the hour mark as it became clear that, after putting so much into the match, the home team were tiring.

McCoist threw on David Templeton for Shiels in an attempt to snatch a goal. The substitute went to the left wing and Macleod moved inside alongside Law.

Rangers finally took the lead with 15 minutes remaining when Aird whipped in a corner and Mohsni headed it into the net off the inside of the left post. Incredibly, it was the French-Tunisian defender's eighth goal of the 2013/14 campaign. But he has not netted one as important this term.

Simsonsen produced the save of the match after that to keep his side in the lead. He palmed a Mohsni header that deflected off Wallace over his crossbar.

Templeton secured another three points with a wonderful individual goal in the final minute. His shot sailed beyond Douglas and into the top right corner of goal.

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