DESPITE displaying all the confidence of rabbits surrounded by searchlights after their 0-4 thrashing by Hibs, Rangers at least managed to grind out a victory over a plucky Dumbarton side.
Scorers: Rangers - Daly 22; Wallace 42; Shiels 90+2; Dumbarton - Graham 15
An injury-time Dean Shiels goal put a bit of gloss on an otherwise workmanlike performance by Rangers, but, as interim manager Kenny McDowall didn’t quite say afterwards, never mind the quality, it was all about the quantity of three points gained.
“When you have a defeat like we had last week,” said McDowall, “it’s important that you get back to winning ways. How you do it doesn’t really matter.”
Though any number of the squad could have been scapegoats, Fraser Aird, Ian Black and Nicky Clark principally paid the price for last week’s stunning reversal at Easter Road, the trio dropping to the bench. Dumbarton showed their intent to get involved in an attacking sense by starting with two up front – Colin Nish and Chris Kane.
An immaculately observed minute’s silence preceded the match in commemoration of the 66 people who died in the Ibrox Disaster on 2 January, 1971. Indeed they truly are always remembered.
Dumbarton’s goal after 15 minutes exemplified the fragile confidence that the Rangers’ back four have been displaying recently – just why was Nish left on his own in the penalty box? Chris Turner’s deep corner found Nish, who nodded the ball down to Andy Graham for a close-range toe poke that gave Steve Simonsen no chance.
The stunned silence around Ibrox would have become funereal had Nish then taken his chance to put the Sons two up less than three minutes later. As it was, he headed Garry Fleming’s excellent cross straight to Simonsen. “If that goes in, it is a different game,” said the Dumbarton manager, Ian Murray, afterwards.
Rangers’ equaliser after 22 minutes
had a touch of good fortune about it. Steven Smith foraged down the left and fired in a hard, low cross, which Lee Mair could only deflect into the path of the inrushing Jon Daly, the ball rebounding off the Irishman into the back of the net.
Rangers were not looking happy in defence, but the goal seemed to inspire more from them in attack. Clear chances were rare, however.
Scott Linton saw the first yellow card after 37 minutes for felling David Templeton, who almost extracted full revenge seconds later, his goalbound shot deflecting narrowly wide by Chris Turner.
With three minutes to half-time, Dumbarton were pressing upfield when Rangers broke away down the left wing. Smith cut inside and fed Lee Wallace whose adroit first touch gave him enough space and control to crack in a low, left-foot shot that sped across Danny Rogers’ goal and in at the far post.
Five minutes into the second half and we saw a touch of the old Kenny Miller, the veteran striker accepting Fleming’s misplaced pass and haring away past two defenders before shooting just wide.
Though there was not enough of it, gradually there was more confidence about Rangers’ attacking play, as was shown in the skilful lead-up play that ended with Kyle Hutton’s shot whistling just off target. Play then became scrappy and disjointed, but Rangers did most of the pressing, Miller squandering a good chance created for him by Richard Foster.
To their credit, Dumbarton kept trying to get forward, but too many of their passes went astray. Both managers used their full quota of substitutes and it was the changes for Rangers which had the most impact, Aird almost scoring with his first possession, Rogers foiling his angled shot.
With five minutes left, the visitors laid siege to the Rangers goal, and the nervousness in the home crowd was palpable, especially when Nish headed the ball down to his striking partner, Kane, whose volley flashed just over the crossbar.
As the part-timers pressed for the equaliser in injury time, Clark broke away and with a three-to-one overlap, he had all time in the world to pick out fellow substitute Dean Shiels who rolled the ball past Rogers for a third goal Rangers barely deserved.
On this display the nerves around Ibrox will jangle for some time, not least because, as McDowall admitted, he has been given no assurances about keeping players, never mind finding new ones in this transfer window.
“The state we are in at the moment, that’s not my decision,” said McDowall. “I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.”
Rangers: Simonsen, Foster, McGregor, McCulloch, Wallace, Templeton (75), Hutton, Law, Smith (80), Daly, Miller (75). Subs: Aird (75), Clark (75). Sheils (80). Subs not used: Robinson, Black, Boyd, Faure.
Dumbarton: Rogers, Van Zanten (80), Graham, Mair, Linton, Campbell (70), Agnew, Turner, Fleming (70), Nish, Kane. Subs: Gilhaney (70), Megginson (70), Taggart (80). Subs not used: Ewings, McCallum, Whitefield.
Referee: B Colvin. Attendance: 30,031.