THE performance was more important than the prize. Rangers got both at Hampden as they lifted the Scottish Youth Cup with victory over Celtic.

This was a night to remember for the Under-18s as goals from Ciaran Dickson, Dapo Mebude and Nathan Young-Coombes ensured the Light Blues lifted the silverware for the first time since 2014, and made up for their Old Firm defeat here a couple of years ago.

But it was the individual showings that boss Steven Gerrard would have paid most attention to as he watched on alongside assistant Gary McAllister and Mark Allen, the Director of Football. If any of this talented group are playing with Gerrard’s side in the future, then occasions such as this will have played a key part in their development.

There is always a pressure and expectation to win at Rangers but Gerrard insisted this week that it was more about progression for the players that are attempting to rise through the ranks at the Hummel Training Centre. Lifting silverware is a habit that players on both sides of the divide have to get into, and it was Rangers that did just that at the National Stadium.

Evening Times:

READ MORE: Stephen McManus confident the future is bright for Celtic kids despite defeat to Rangers

Several members of the side that lifted the Al Kass Cup in Qatar earlier this year were handed a start and two of the main players from that success – Kai Kennedy and Young-Coombes – impressed once again. Their fellow forwards Mebude and Josh McPake, both of whom are closer to Gerrard’s first team squad at present, also caught the eye as Rangers deservedly lead 2-0 at the break.

Both goals came from well-worked set-pieces. The first was a fine, placed finish from Dickson as he found the bottom corner after collecting a Kennedy corner.

And the second saw Mebude rifle a shot through a host of bodies in the area after Kyle McClelland rose well in the air and nodded a cross into the path of the diminutive forward.

Just six minutes in, Rangers looked well on their way to victory but the decisive third goal never arrived. A driven effort from McPake as he drifted in from the left and fired across target was as close as the Light Blues would come.

Celtic, to their credit, grew into the encounter and there was an increasing influence from Karamoko Dembele, probably the most talked-about player on the park. He couldn’t unlock the Gers defence, but midfielder Barry Coffey tested Lewis Budinauckas with a couple of curling efforts from range.

Evening Times:

READ MORE: David McCallum hopes Rangers' cup winning kids catch the eye of Ibrox boss Steven Gerrard

When the third goal of the night did arrive, it was quickly followed by the fourth. Within seconds of the restart, Celtic had pulled themselves level as Neil Lennon and Danny McGrain cast their eye over the action.

Striker Cameron Harper ran straight at the heart of the Rangers defence after collecting a Dembele pass and his finish was clinical from inside the area.

If that was a moment of individual skill, the equaliser had more than a touch of fortune about it. The free-kick from Paul Kennedy struck the Rangers wall and a wicked deflection left Budinauckas wrong-footed as the ball trickled into the opposite corner of the net.

This time, it was Rangers that had to react. Rather than crumble, they took the lead once again as Young-Coombes powered home a header from a Kennedy free-kick before rushing to celebrate with the small band of kids that were allowed in to watch the action.

Evening Times:

READ MORE: Talbot boss Tommy Sloan taking nothing for granted despite unbeaten run

The game should have been wrapped up within a couple of minutes but Kennedy saw a penalty well saved by Liam Hughes after Mebude had been fouled. The keeper had little chance with the goals that had beaten him, but this was a smart stop low to his right.

It wasn’t to prove a match-winning one, however, as Celtic couldn’t find a way back this time. Budinauckas did well to stop a well-struck effort from Armstrong Oko-Flex, before the  flag denied Harper an equaliser.

That was Celtic’s last chance. On the final whistle, the celebrations said it all about what this achievement meant to the Ibrox kids.