QUEEN’S PARK gave Rangers a run for their money in their first two encounters this season, but the gulf in present quality between the teams, exemplified by Rangers’ four well-taken goals, can legitimately be deduced from the 22-point gap which now separates them at the top of the Third Division.
Scorers: Rangers: Black (53); Little (63), (89); Shiels, (78)
As Rangers prepare to mark a year since the club went into administration on 14 February, 2012, an article in the club programme charting the last year blamed SPL clubs for being motivated by “spiteful rival fans” and of trying to “bully” SFL clubs. Charles Green was then quoted as saying: “What we have to do is draw a line and move forward.”
So, no more fans’ boycotts and no more talk of revenge on perceived enemies… after all, Mr Green has said it.
Referencing his jersey number, the third minute saw a poignant moment as the crowd rendered a minute’s applause in support of Sandy Jardine, who is battling cancer. Six minutes later, it was the turn of No.9 Paul Gascoigne to receive a message of support.
Though Queen’s Park were combative, Rangers began to pepper Neil Parry’s goal with a variety of efforts. Dean Shiels sent Andrew Little clear in the 11th minute but he blazed over, before David Templeton fell as he was shooting and consequently sent his effort off target.
Shiels’ fierce shot after 13 minutes was parried away by the Queen’s Park goalkeeper, and after Little just missed Barrie McKay’s fine cross that begged to be headed in, it was Shiels’ turn again, his left-foot shot bulging the side netting.
Queen’s Park could do nothing with a couple of corners, while Aidan Connolly’s curving free kick from distance was underpowered.
Connolly was then booked for hauling down Kyle Hutton on the edge of the Queen’s Park box, though Rangers wasted the resultant free kick. Colleagues Andrew Robertson and Tony McPartland joined Connolly in the book for heavy foul tackles, while Anestis Argyriou and David Templeton also saw yellow in what was not a dirty game.
As the first half wore on, there were murmurs of irritation among the home fans. Emilson Cribari undoubtedly shared their frustration as the big Brazilian came forward to make his impact after 41 minutes, first of all heading Templeton’s well-placed free kick against the goalkeeper’s right-hand post and then nodding a corner on to Shiels who appeared off balance as he glanced his header off the left post.
In first-half injury time, Parry made an excellent double save, first thwarting Templeton and then rising to palm away Shiels’ follow-up effort.
The second half started in much the same fashion as most of the first, with Rangers missing chances, Parry saving well from Hutton and Shiels blasting the rebound wide.
The opening goal was only delayed until five minutes into the half, however. It was a simple thing of beauty, McKay haring down the left wing and firing in a low cross which Ian Black met on the run, controlling the ball side-footed into the far corner.
Templeton struck a stunning 30-yard shot that whistled just by the post, before a quite excellent goal by Rangers.
If the first goal highlighted individual skill, the second after 63 minutes showcased superb teamwork. McKay, Templeton, Hutton, and Shiels combined in a lightning-fast pinpoint passing move that tore the visitors’ defence apart in considerably less time than it took Chris Huhne’s ex-wife to end the former minister’s parliamentary career, Little having a simple tap-in off Shiels’ adroit final pass.
The amateurs had put up a good fight until that point, but with Rangers in total command, a third goal was inevitable and it duly followed after 78 minutes, Little sending Lee Wallace away on the left and his cross being turned in by Shiels.
Wallace was again the provider for the fourth, another good goal by Little who grabbed his second with a low shot.
Manager Ally McCoist refused to accept that the Third Division title is won – “though we are in an absolutely fantastic position, of course,” – and added that it had not been the worst year of his life, saying: “Given where we were a year ago, I am content with where we are now.”
The end of the first part of what the Rangers fans call “the journey” is now in sight. Where Rangers and Scottish football go next is up to the SFL chairmen.
Rangers: Alexander; Argyriou, Cribari, Hegarty, Wallace, Hutton, Little, Black, Shiels (Crawford 80), McKay (Aird 73), Templeton (Mitchell 84).
Queen’s Park: Parry; Little, Robertson, Keenan (Burns 70), Brough, McPartland, Connolly, Anderson, Longworth, Quinn (Shankland 90), Spittal (Urquhart 59).
Referee: G Salmond. Attendance: 46,104