THERE has, without question, never been such a difficult spell in the long and illustrious playing history of Rangers.

Not since the club was founded way back in 1872 has it ever experienced such poor fortunes on the football field.

Playing in the bottom tier of the Scottish game is not something a club of such size and stature aspires to. Not when it has grown accustomed to winning titles and trophies – not to mention competing at the highest level in Europe – in the last 140 years.

Yet, having endured so much heartache and pain in the past year, Rangers supporters appear decidedly chipper just now - and rightly so.

There are an abundance of reasons, both on and off the pitch, for Light Blues fans to celebrate and smile after what has been a traumatic period.

The club was listed on the London Stock Exchange at eight o'clock this morning after a successful share issue raised £22.2million.

Critics and cynics – and there are no shortage of those in this divided city – will point to the fact that fans failed to invest the £10m hoped for. Charles Green, the club chief executive, looked unperturbed by that fact when he addressed the support before the game with Annan kicked off last night.

"It's a phenomenal achievement," he enthused. "It is unique in football and one you fans should be immensely proud of.

"The money will help us rebuild the club and take us back to where we belong. You did it. You made it happen. You stood by your club through dark and difficult days."

None of the cash raised can, of course, be used to strengthen Ally McCoist's squad in the near future.

Rangers are unable to pay money for a player until January 2014 due to the 12-month transfer ban imposed upon them for what went on under the previous regime.

However, they have much to be positive about on the football as well as the financial front at this precise moment in time.

The way this talented young team scrapped to a 3-0 win over Annan in their latest Irn-Bru Third Division match last night underlined how much progress is being made.

Having been reduced to 10 men on the hour mark after the red-carding of Lee Wallace inside his own penalty box, things were looking decidedly ominous for Rangers. The spirited visiting team had a penalty to level the match and another upset, this time at home, in the league, was not beyond the realms of possibility at that stage.

But Neil Alexander saved Scott Chaplain's spot-kick, and the follow-up shot from Michael Daly, brilliantly and his team-mates were visibly lifted.

Andy Little, returning to the sort of form he was producing before picking up an injury earlier this term, netted a superb individual effort moments later to put his team 2-0 in front.

And man of the match David Templeton – another who is, slowly but surely, hitting peak form – whipped in his second of the match shortly afterwards.

At the start of the 2012/13 campaign, when this hastily thrown together team was finding its feet, when the youthful team were toiling to get to grips with senior football, the chances are they would have crumbled.

Chris Hegarty, Kyle Hutton, Barrie McKay and Lewis Macleod, individuals with an abundance of youthful promise, are clearly maturing and that augurs well for the short and long-term future.

As, for that matter, does the return to action of Francisco Sandaza after a lengthy injury lay-off; the Spaniard started last night after nearly three months on the sidelines.

Sandaza beavered away tirelessly by himself up front for over an hour before being replaced by Ross Perry after Wallace's red card for preventing a scoring opportunity.

While his finishing understandably left something to be desired, his showing suggested he will be a useful weapon for his boss in the weeks ahead.

Elsewhere, Fraser Aird and Perry, who have both been out with minor ailments, came on as substitutes and will increase Gers' player pool.

The highly-entertaining win sent McCoist's charges, who still have a game in hand, six points clear of nearest rivals Elgin City in the league table. The re-arranged game at Borough Briggs on Saturday now takes on massive significance.

The crowd of 42,135 was, too, highly impressive for a midweek fixture and undoubtedly played a significant part in overcoming stubborn opponents.

A small section of the crowd – the area occupied by the Union Bears and The Blue Order – staged a protest as Green spoke before the match. They made their unhappiness at the very real prospect of the English businessman selling the naming rights to Ibrox to the highest bidder perfectly clear.

They each held up placards which read "Always Ibrox" and chanted throughout the public address to the assembled throng.

They were quite entitled to show and voice their displeasure in a display which underlines that, no matter how well things may appear to be going, there are always high expectations in all areas at Rangers.