MARTYN Waghorn clutched the match ball triumphantly in front of the Rangers supporters in celebration of his first senior hat-trick which helped open up a nine-point lead at the top of the Championship.
He got all of his team-mates to sign it and did not let the ball escape his clutches as he also collected a bottle of champagne for his man-of-the-match performance.
His tally is now 14 for the season – seven of which have come from the penalty spot – from just 13 games. Not bad for a player who is reputedly not a prolific goalscorer.
At this rate the 25-year-old Geordie is on course to emulate the feats of Marco Negri who slammed 30 goals by Christmas in the 1997-98 season.
There was no doubt some added determination in his play at Greenock yesterday having suffered with the rest of the Rangers team when losing to St Johnstone in midweek.
In truth he might have scored five times such was the pulsating and purposeful nature of Rangers’ play in a highly one-sided contest.
It was a case of normal service resumed for Mark Warburton and his team as Morton were swatted aside in front of the highest crowd at Cappielow in 12 years.
The trickery of Nathan Oduwa led to Rangers taking the lead in the 12th minute when Ross Forbes fell victim to his skills.
Rangers worked a short corner on the right and Oduwa easily skipped past Conor Pepper and was shaping to pull the ball back when Forbes slid in and took him down. It was a clear penalty and the former Motherwell and Partick Thistle player held his head only too aware of actions.
Waghorn spotted the ball and slammed a left-foot effort low into the left corner giving Derek Gaston no chance.
Free-flowing Rangers were ruthless and relentless as they wrapped the game up inside the first 34 minutes, clearly getting the anger and disappointment of their League Cup defeat by St Johnstone out of their system.
Waghorn’s second goal in 22 minutes was an example of terrific finishing as he took Barrie McKay’s pass with his back to goal and completely fooled Ricki Lamie with a lovely spin before driving a left-foot shot into the right corner.
The former Wigan striker should have completed his hat-trick in 40 minutes when he was presented with a golden opportunity in the middle of the area after Pepper’s clearance had hit Oduwa and bounced into his path.
However, he scuffed his shot which hit Gaston and diverted wide for a corner when it seemed easier to score.
It mattered little in the grand scheme of things as James Tavernier continued his remarkable scoring run with his eighth goal of the season in 34 minutes.
The frustration for Jim Duffy is that Morton made a mess of a free-kick in a good area and were punished on the counter attack.
Tavernier started it all when he cleared Lee Kilday’s ball into the box and released Gedion Zelalem before racing forward to join the sweeping attack.
Zelalem carried the ball into Morton territory and picked out McKay who in turn slid the ball into the box for Tavernier who shot past Gaston. It was clinical and it was too easy.
That said, Morton did have chances. If Alex Samuel had been cuter in the 38th minute he might have won a penalty when Danny Wilson nudged him after Rob Kiernan had missed a Michael Tidser ball into the box.
However, Samuel, unsteady on his feet, tried to shoot and missed the target.
Two minutes later, Wes Foderingham was forced into a great double save when he blocked Tidser’s fierce drive then was alert enough to push away Denny Johnstone’s rebound.
These passages of play gave the Greenock men something to cling to in the second half but the reality was they were never going to get back in it. It was largely about pride and in that regard only losing one more goal was a success.
Rangers were not as potent as they had been in the first 45 minutes but they were still streets ahead.
Waghorn had another opportunity for a personal treble in 53 minutes when he was played in by Andy Halliday but Michael Miller made a fantastic challenge to deny the Rangers striker.
Then in 65 minutes Gaston made an excellent save from substitute Kenny Miller’s left-foot shot from the edge of the box after another surging run by Oduwa.
Waghorn, however, was not to be denied and completed his hat-trick nine minutes from time.
Tavernier found space on the right and while Miller missed his cross the ball dropped nicely for Waghorn, whose left-foot shot took a deflection before finding the right corner.
Scorers: Rangers - Waghorn (12 pen, 22, 81), Tavernier (34)
Referee: W Collum