RANGERS motored on in their relentless quest to an inevitable title, but they had their goalkeeper Cammy Bell to thank for keeping them level after a first-half Ayr onslaught.
Scorers: Rangers - Law 46; Daly 59
The Ibrox side boast a remarkable record on their travels with a 100 per cent record and that was maintained at Somerset Park yesterday after a much-improved display after the interval thanks to goals from Nicky Law and Jon Daly. However, Bell had to make three excellent first-half saves to keep his side level.
Scotland will announce their squad for the Poland friendly on Wednesday and on this evidence, Bell should be close to grabbing a recall. Certainly, his manager Ally McCoist was full of praise for the former Kilmarnock keeper, who faced plenty of abuse from their Ayrshire rivals’ fans throughout yesterday’s encounter.
McCoist said: “That’s as good a performance as you’ll see from any keeper in the country. He’s been top class.
“In history, Rangers goalies have always been called upon to make saves at crucial times when we’ve had large amounts of possession in the game. He did that today and even speaking to Andy Goram after the game he thought he was very good, which is praise indeed.”
McCoist was also keen to clarify reports that he’d ‘demanded’
£30 million for new players to mount a challenge against Celtic. He pointed out: “Not at any time did I say £30 million would be required to get Rangers back to the top. I said I think we lost £30 million worth of talent in the players we lost. I wasn’t saying that’s what would be needed to take us back to the top.”
Bell made the first of his saves after just three minutes when former Rangers striker Kevin Kyle latched on to Alan Forrest’s pass and his drive was saved and he made another fine stop in the 12th minute.
Craig Malcolm turned quickly towards goal from a quick throw-in and hit a cracking effort on the volley and the save would have impressed Ayr’s goalkeeping coach Goram, who was on the home bench.
Both teams came desperately close to opening the scoring in a crazy spell in the 27th minute. After Brian Gilmour’s free kick had deflected for a corner, the ball fell perfectly for Michael Donald, but his close-range shot was somehow kept out by another fine stop by Bell.
Rangers immediately broke upfield and after the ball was squared to Fraser Aird, the midfielder cracked a shot off the underside of the bar before the rebound fell perfectly for Law, who ballooned it a mile over the bar.
But Law soon made up for it just 30 seconds into the second half. Aird fired a peach of a cross and Law bundled home from close range.
Rangers then made sure of the points in the 59th minute through a simple goal when Lee Wallace floated over a perfect delivery from the left. It was begging to be nodded in and Daly duly obliged to realistically end the contest.
Daly also joined in on the praise for Bell and suggested he must be close to a Scotland recall.
He said: “Cammy’s an excellent keeper, who wouldn’t let anyone down if he was called up by the Scottish national side. He kept us in the game and we’re lucky we have such an exceptional goalkeeper.”
Ayr United manager Mark Roberts was frustrated his side had allowed Rangers to win for the second time this season at Somerset Park, despite holding the visitors at the interval.
He said: “When we got in at half-time level we were in a position where we needed to ensure we went back out needing to concentrate and not do anything daft.
“But we made a silly mistake straight from taking centre which allowed Rangers to go straight up the park and score.”
Ayr United: Hutton, Hunter, Pope, Gilmour, Lithgow, McLaughlin, Crawford (Shankland, 63), Malcolm, Forrest, Kyle (McGowan, 75), Donald.
Subs not used: Campbell, Longridge, Marenghi, Wardrope, Newman.
Booked: A Hunter, B Gilmour, A Lithgow, C Malcolm, M McGowan.
Rangers: Bell, Foster, Wallace, Black, Faure, Cribari, Aird, Law, Shiels (Little, 70), Daly, Templeton (Peralta, 76).
Subs not used: Simonsen, Crawford, Smith, Telfer, Halkett.
Goals: N Law 56; J Daly 59.
Referee: J McKendrick