Though the scoreline may suggest otherwise, Rangers defeated Queen’s Park with a degree of comfort in Airdrie last night, Kris Boyd’s two goals being enough for victory against a plucky side from two divisions lower.
Scorers: Queen’s Park - Quinn (31); Rangers - Boyd (7, 53)
In what was a home fixture for Queen’s Park, it was really no advantage to the part-timers that they were playing on the Excelsior Stadium’s synthetic surface.
Both sides tried to get the ball down and play passing football on the plastic but all three goals notably came from headers off crosses.
Rangers named a strong side, manager Ally McCoist presumably wanting to take no chances in a Cup competition, and they attacked Queen’s Park from the outset.
Lee McCulloch almost had Rangers ahead after only three minutes, his powerful downward header from Nicky Clark’s cross being superbly saved by Willie Muir, before Arnold Peralta smacked a low shot just past the post from 30 yards.
What seemed to be inevitable came before the seventh minute elapsed. Nicky Law picked up Peralta’s throw-in and his cross from the right wing found Kris Boyd in space in the penalty box and he merely had to incline his head to bullet his header past Muir.
Rangers looked to have gone further ahead less than two minutes later when Peralta’s cross was headed powerfully home by Nicky Clark, but the assistant referee’s flag had been raised as soon as Peralta touched the ball.
The Rangers fans sat back to await a deluge of goals, but Queen’s Park had other ideas, and they were soon trying manfully to get forward, though at first all they had to show for their pains was the yellow card shown to Paul Woods for simulation in the Rangers box, that coming just shortly after referee Alan Muir had turned down a lame penalty appeal by the home side.
Rangers easily soaked up the Spiders’ attempts in the first quarter of the match, and though they created few clear chances themselves, Boyd and Clark were always on the hunt, the former almost, but not quite, catching goalkeeper Muir unawares after 23 minutes.
Queen’s Park suffered a blow when the lively Kevin Fotheringham who had earlier taken an innocuous tumble on the plastic, signalled he was unable to continue. He was replaced by Sean Burns, who was soon involved in the action that promptly took an unexpected turn.
Despite the presence of big men in light blue at the back, on the half-hour mark Tony Quinn managed to get his head to Darren Miller’s cross as the Rangers defence inexplicably failed to close down their opponents, not helped by goalkeeper Steve Simonsen wandering into no man’s land to swing a fresh-air punch.
As the ball looped slowly into the empty net, the silence from the Rangers contingent spoke volumes for their disbelief at this unanticipated development.
Queen’s Park suddenly had confidence, and Rangers were becoming increasingly frustrated as the half wore on as they could make no impression on an increasingly well organised defence.
No doubt ‘refreshed’ by managerial exhortation, Rangers started the second half in similar energetic fashion to the first, and Clark’s low cross was met by the diving Bilel Mohsni whose header went narrowly past Muir’s left upright. And just as they had done in the opening period, it took Rangers seven minutes to get on the score sheet again.
This time it was down to Peralta’s pace and trickery, the right-winger bursting into the box and lifting a perfect pin-point cross over goalkeeper and defenders that meant Boyd’s header could not miss the open goal.
A break down the left by Clark after 70 minutes ended with Lewis MacLeod firing a right-foot shot narrowly over the postage stamp corner, before one of the biggest cheers of the night greeted the news that Maribor had scored against Celtic – ah, that Glasgow Commonwealth Games friendliness!
The home side never really threatened towards the end, and Rangers saw out time.