RARELY has a side moving to the top of the Premiership table been greeted with such murmurings of discontent, as Rangers huffed and puffed their way to the top of the standings with a largely uninspiring win over Hamilton.

It wasn’t that the Ibrox side didn’t deserve their win. Far, far from it. If this was a boxing match, Accies would have been put out of their misery long before the end. On almost every possible measurable statistic, it was no contest.

Rangers enjoyed almost complete domination of the 90 minutes, with over 60% of possession, a glut of shots on goal and more corners - 22 by the end - than are normally seen in two matches. And yet, Hamilton refused to throw in the towel as Rangers toiled to find a knockout punch, and in the end, Daniel Candeais’s early goal was scant reward for the territorial advantage the home side enjoyed.

With Alfredo Morelos sitting out the last match of his suspension, Rangers again looked blunt in attack, with the strike from Candeais their first goal from open play in six matches.

A Sunday match against Hamilton may not be the easiest fixture to get the juices flowing mind you, but the Rangers players were given a pre-game boost as that news filtered through from Edinburgh that Hibernian had defeated Celtic to give Steven Gerrard’s men the chance to go back to the top of the table.

The big picture is that they did just that, and had they been offered the chance of the day panning out as it did beforehand, they would have bitten your hand off. It really should have been a far more comprehensive victory though.

What looked set to be a cricket score turned into a bit of a struggle by the end. The result was never in any real danger, but the lack of creativity in the home ranks was clear for all to see as they toiled to break down the red and white wall that Hamilton had erected deep in their own area.

The visitors looked nervy from the off, and goalkeeper Gary Woods missed his kick before eventually having to slide tackle Kyle Lafferty to concede a corner from which Rangers really should have taken the lead.

James Tavernier opened up the angle by working a one-two with Scott Arfield before whipping a glorious ball onto the head of Lafferty two yards out at the back post, but the forward took his eye off his finish and found the woodwork.

Hamilton’s respite was short-lived. Eros Grezda’s ball across goal from the left found Lafferty, whose shot on the turn was blocked by Ziggy Gordon. The ball fell nicely though for Candeias, who slammed the ball home low under Woods in just the third minute of the game.

A long afternoon seemed in store for the visitors, and the action was entirely one-way, with the game resembling an attack against defence training exercise, and a fluff from Aaron McGowan almost presented Grezda with the second for Rangers, but Woods managed to turn his shot behind before helping a Tavernier cross over the bar that was looping in.

The home side were racking up corner after corner, and the relentless pressure almost paid off after Darian MacKinnon’s quite ludicrous foul on Ryan Jack on the edge of the area earned him a booking. Barisic clipped the ball up for Gareth McAuley to attack, but Woods was equal to his header, diving to palm to safety.

The only surprising aspect as referee Euan Anderson brought an entirely one-sided first-half to a close was that Rangers weren’t further ahead.

It wasn’t long before the second half settled into a familiar pattern, with Rangers again pressing and coming close as Lafferty side-footed Barisic’s cross from the left into the side-netting.

Seemingly the only threat to the home side would be their own complacency, and they had a warning shot fired across their bows at last as Scott McMann showed great pace to get down the outside of Tavernier and force Allan McGregor into a decent save, the first time the Rangers keeper had got his gloves dirty over 50 minutes into the match.

The home side should have put the seal on the three points shortly after as a poor Woods clearance allowed Arfield the chance to play in Grezda, but the ball was slightly too far ahead of the winger and Woods made amends by closing down the angle and making the save.

It as questionable whether Rangers really needed both McCrorie and Jack in the midfield with Hamilton offering so little in an attacking sense, and manager Gerrard recognised that just before the hour as he withdrew McCrorie and brought Glenn Middleton onto the right with Candeias moving into a central position.

Woods made a stunning save to deny Lafferty after Connor Goldson had nodded Barisic’s deep delivery back across goal, the Hamilton keeper springing to his right to somehow claw the ball out from under the crossbar.

The natives were starting to get restless as their team for their lack of cutting edge, with Arfield in particular finding his range a little out as he tried to unlock the massed ranks of the Hamilton defence.

The midfielder’s day was rather summed up as he curled a great effort from the edge of the box that fell just the wrong side of the post.

And while it was only one, there was always hope for Hamilton, and substitute Fredrik Brustad broke away to get a shot at goal that was blocked up and over by Goldson.

There were then a few nervous moments for Rangers as they conceded some free-kicks late on, an utterly ludicrous state of affairs considering what had gone before.

But, at the end of a successful yet ultimately frustrating afternoon for Rangers, they sit at the top of the Premiership standings. They now travel to Easter Road on Wednesday night to take on yesterday’s vanquishers of Celtic, and if they hope to stay at the summit, they will have to be a damn sight more clinical than they were here.