ON the day the shell of the old Rangers was formally put into liquidation, the ghosts of the past returned to haunt the Ibrox club.
Scorers: Inverness CT: Shinnie (27, 79 pen), Warren (59)
Bookings: Rangers - Alexander, Cribari, Black, Little; Inverness CT - Raven McKay
It had been the chance for the Govan side to move a step closer to writing a new chapter. The debate will continue to rage over their eligibility to lay claim – factually or emotionally – to trophies amassed previously but what couldn’t be queried is their desire to win the first piece of major silverware open to them since the descent into the bottom tier of the Scottish Football League. But with Ibrox legend Terry Butcher guiding Inverness Caledonian Thistle and ex-Murray Park graduates Andrew and Graeme Shinne involved in each of the goals, this is a club which apparently can’t escape its past.
A squad which should undoubtedly be faring better in the Third Division, it is at home, in this competition, against former SPL foes, that they have produced their best. Motherwell were the first significant scalp. The Fir Park side had been the in-form team when they met in the last 16 but they defied their respective standings that night. This time it was Inverness who stood between them and progress. Butcher’s men went into the match buoyed by an impressive run of results. On a four-game winning run, scoring 12 and conceding just three in those fixtures, they have been rewarded with a place in the higher echelons of the league table, occupying territory tonight’s opponents have been more familiar with. It made the Highland side a tough proposition for Ally McCoist’s men, whose biggest boost coming into this one was the fact that they had finally managed to get to grips with Third Division away days, claiming their first league victory on the road at the weekend. It meant that the doubts which may have previously dogged a side like Inverness en route to Ibrox were absent. Inverness
always believed they would win this one. They were more than capable of doing so.
Rangers, though, did start smartly. Having benefitted from a high-tempo, high-intensity approach against Motherwell, they again tried to unnerve their higher ranked rivals. Dean Shiels was spritely in the
opening few minutes, picking up the ball on the edge of the area and driving into the box before he unleashed an angled shot which had Antonio Reguero scrambling but it went wide of the far post.
With both teams scrapping for dominance in those early exchanges, Inverness then tested the Rangers keeper, Neil Alexander, with an Aaron Doran strike, before Shiels burst between David Raven and Doran at the other end. His advance into the six-yard box was then thwarted by Gary Warren.
The home crowd were given a fright when Willie Mckay fired in an effort but the angle was too tight and he was unable to beat Alexander at the near post. That spurred Rangers into a more cohesive period of pressure. In the 17th minute Lee McCulloch laid the ball back to Lewis McLeod and the youngster drove it low at the keeper who needed a second shot at smothering it.
A minute later Andrew Little was the one forcing a block and then McLeod sent his effort over the bar. The SPL side weathered all that Rangers threw at them during that frantic spell and emerged at the other side of it still fairly poised and in the mood to retaliate. They did so in clinical fashion.
In the 27th minute McKay picked out Doran and with one pass he took out the entire home rearguard, and found former Rangers youth player Andrew Shinnie, who built on his recent scoring exploits, slotting the ball calmly past Alexander. It was the kind of breathing space the away side wanted but it was a blow to their hosts, who grew a bit antsy, and a bit more frenzied as they tried to harry with purpose but less poise than they had mustered before. The grumblings from the stands were not in response to the
players’ on-field performance, instead the manifestation of their frustration with the officials and the scoreline.
Fully aware that Celtic and
St Mirren were already through to the semi-finals and desperate for a Hampden fixture more meaty than a Third Division
encounter with Queen’s Park, there was a growing desperation in the way Rangers went about trying to restore parity. Shiels was a pain in right back Raven’s side and the defender was fortunate not to see red after he caught him just minutes after receiving a yellow card. Instead referee Steven McLean sufficed with a final verbal warning.
Having switching things up at half-time, with Anestis Argyriou replacing Ross Perry, the problem for Rangers remained their defence, caught out too easily for the breakthrough goal, they were far from clever when Inverness finally added a second. Capitalising on poor defending, Gary Warren was able to convert Graeme Shinnie’s corner into the goal that ensured Rangers wouldn’t be coming back at them. Had it not been for Alexander the scoreline would have been even more emphatic. Twice McKay had superb chances to extend the lead, twice the Rangers keeper rushed out, made himself too big and denied the Inverness attacker. But they were not to be denied one more. It was the Greek substitute who clattered Andrew Shinnie as he got into the box and while the Rangers players and fans seethed, his brother calmly sent the ball by Alexander from the spot.
Rangers: Alexander, Hegarty, Perry (Argyriou 46), Emilson Cribari, Wallace, Hutton (Kyle 62), Black, Macleod, Little, McCulloch, Shiels (McKay 62). Subs not used: Scott Gallagher, Aird.
Inverness CT: Reguero, Raven, Warren, Meekings, G Shinnie, Doran, Tudur Jones, Draper, Roberts (Sutherland 82), A Shinnie (Foran 88), McKay (Pepper 90). Subs not Used: Esson, Cooper.