NICKY Clark is relishing the challenge of staying in manager Ally McCoist’s plans after enjoying the best possible start to his Rangers career.
Scorers: Rangers - Clark 1, McCulloch 17, 36, 63, Macleod 54
Referee: A Muir
The forward opened his scoring account for his new club just 30 seconds into his competitive debut as Rangers romped to a 5-0 win over an East Fife side that fielded former Hearts captain Robbie Neilson as a trialist.
A transfer embargo meant Clark, and fellow new recruit goalkeeper Cammy Bell, featured in Saturday’s Scottish League One clash at Ibrox as trialists.
Clark netted by racing onto McCulloch’s flick-on and then coolly firing past goalkeeper Michael Andrews.
At the other end, Bell had his first touch when he was called into action to smother Cedric Tuta’s low drive.
But with the year-long ban now lifted and Rangers finally able to register and select all eight of their new signings – Clark knows he will have to continue this form as competition for places is about to become a whole lot tougher, a prospect he welcomes.
He said: “You need competition at any football club. You can’t just go in and know you are starting every week because complacency sets in. You need competition and it will be tough to stay in the team but hopefully, if I keep scoring goals, I can keep my place.
“Someone put on Twitter that the goal was something like 29 seconds into the game. To score my first goal that quickly, and in front of that crowd, was unbelievable. I was a wee bit nervous going into the game, as anyone would be in their first game here, so to score so quickly settled me down and I went on to enjoy the game.”
Lewis Macleod was also on the scoresheet with a volley but both were outdone by veteran skipper Lee McCulloch, who claimed the first competitive hat-trick of his career. McCulloch’s first came after 17 minutes when he threw himself in front of a Lee Wallace ball into the box and glanced a header beyond Andrews. The pair combined well again as Rangers claimed their third of the day after 37 minutes, with Wallace supplying the cross from the left and McCulloch nodding home at the back post.In the second half Macleod netted nine minutes after the restart with a superb 20-yard volley. McCulloch completed his hat-trick with 62 minutes gone with yet another header.
This time, the delivery was provided by Kyle McAusland and the Gers skipper rose above everyone else in the box to nod over the line from close range.
Clark paid tribute to the club captain for helping him through his debut and fully expects McCulloch to have a positive impact on his time at Rangers.
The 22-year-old said: “Big Jig (McCulloch) was brilliant and so were his goals. He talked me through the game and helped me through it and he’s a great pro. Him and big Jon Daly and the rest of the experienced boys will help not just me but the rest of the young boys as well this season.”
Clark netted more than 40 goals in the same division last season with Queen of the South but would not to predict how many goals he will score in a Rangers jersey, insisting: “I’ve never set myself any targets.”
But, having watched the Glasgow giants find the back of the net 18 times in just four league matches, he believes the team could net 100 goals this term. Clark said: “It’s been a great start and we have scored a lot of goals so I don’t see why not. If we continue the way we have been going, and the way we should be going, I think we could [score 100].”