THE Championship has now entered a fascinating phase as Rangers closed the gap on Hearts to four points with a visit to Tynecastle beckoning on 22 November.
Perhaps fittingly, it was two former Gorgie employees who combined to produce the clinching goal in what was a largely unremarkable Rangers performance but a comfortable one.
Ian Black’s pass to substitute David Templeton was simple and effective as the winger finished with some style four minutes from time.
Nicky Law got the ball rolling with his fifth goal of the season but it was the luckless Kyle Miller who effectively clinched the game for Rangers with a spectacular own goal ten minutes into the second half. The road back for Rangers is still an arduous one and some anniversary dates only exemplify the point. Just five years ago on 4 November they were playing in the Champions League in Romania, drawing 1-1 with Unirea Urziceni.
Indeed 22 years ago, they defeated Leeds United 2-1 at Elland Road in the famous Battle of Britain to qualify for the inaugural tournament. These heady days must have seem liked a lifetime ago as they entered the arena at Central Park which is only similarly filled when the stock car racing is on.
However, pre-match concerns that the tight constraints may cause some problems evaporated with barely two minutes on the clock when the Fifers were sliced open with consummate ease. Law started the move and finished it clinically. He eased forward from the halfway line played a good ball into Kris Boyd then raced into the box.
Boyd picked him out with an equally good return ball and Law slammed a right foot shot low into the left corner.
However, far from capitulating Cowdenbeath came back strongly at Rangers inspired by Kudas Oyenuga who made life uncomfortable at times for Darren McGregor. The loan signing from Dundee United dropped his shoulder in 16 minutes to ease past McGregor and hit a great cross which was destined for Sean Higgins before Stevie Smith did really well to divert the ball away.
Five minutes earlier he had been tripped by the former Cowdenbeath centre back just outside the box but wasted the free kick, shooting harmlessly over the bar. It was frustrating for Ally McCoist that Rangers did not hammer home their early advantage, although they did come close in 21 minutes when Kenny Miller latched onto Lee McCulloch’s long ball and only a terrific block by Marcus Fraser denied him. It was fleeting pressure from the visitors and the Fifers were desperately unfortunate not to draw level in 31 minutes
Rangers looked very flat-footed as Declan Hughes slid a great ball to Higgins on the edge of the penalty area. The Cowdenbeath striker perhaps did not make the best contact, but his left foot shot beat the returning Steve Simonsen who tuned in horror before breathing a massive sigh of relief as the ball struck the base of the right post.
Sadly for Hughes he had to be helped from the field six minutes later when he came off worst in a challenge with Ian Black and was replaced by Chris Kane. There were, no doubt, a few home truths expressed in the Rangers dressing room at half-time and McCoist almost got the perfect reaction.
Barely a minute of the second half had been played when Stevie Smith’s corner was cleared only as far as McCulloch whose left foot shot beat Robbie Thomson but was cleared off the line by Dean Brett. There was more intensity to Rangers’ play and they found the comforting second goal they were looking for in 55 minutes albeit from an unlikely source.
Boyd tried to find Miller at the back post with a decent cross from the right and in trying to clear Cowdenbeath full back Kyle Miller spectacularly headed the ball into his own net off the underside of the crossbar,
It was a nightmare for the 22-year-old as it effectively ended his team’s challenge.
However, Miller very nearly redeemed himself a minute later when he hit a terrific free kick from 25 yards which Simonsen did well to push past the post.
It might have made for a more for a more interesting match but in the end that was about the strength of Cowdenbeath’s second half threat.
Rangers were able to take off Boyd and Smith to give action to David Templeton and Jon Daly some action and the former duly made absolutely certain of victory. It was his fellow former Hearts team mate Black who was the creator when he slid a great pass into Templeton om the left side of the box and the winger produced a cool left-foot finish.
Cowdenbeath: R Thomson, Brett (Sutherland 67), Fraser, Wedderburn, Miller, Marshall (Johnston 84), Hughes (Kane 39), Robertson, Milne, Oyenuga, S Higgins. Subs Not Used: Sneddon, Campbell, O’Brien, Brownlie.
Rangers: Simonsen, Foster, McGregor, McCulloch, Wallace, Macleod, Law, Black, Smith (Daly 70), Miller, Boyd (Templeton 70). Subs Not Used: Mohsni, Clark, Faure, Shiels, Robinson.
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