Rangers 4-0 East Fife: Natural order observed as Rangers beat ‘higher’ rivals
EVEN though in normal circumstances a Third Division side defeating a Second Division oufit would be considered a surprise, Rangers ensured there was no cup shock at Ibrox on Tuesday night.
A side packed full of internationalists dealt ruthlessly with their visitors from a higher league, though the odds were always stacked heavily against East Fife, who also had to cope with a partisan home crowd. Rangers supporters will now relish the chance to be paired with an SPL club when the second round draw is made tomorrow after a double by Lee McCulloch and further goals by Lee Wallace and new signing Dean Shiels
dispensed with East Fife in front of 38,160 fans.
It was the type of atmosphere normally reserved for a title flag day. In actual fact, it marked only Rangers’ first home game as a Third Division club and their first League Cup first-round tie since 1978. Remarkably, kick-off had to be held up for more than 15 minutes to let the crowd in, meaning those already in the ground had time to digest the contents of a match programme that promised better times ahead. “Rangers will rise again”, pledged the bill-boards outside. Among the usual scarves and flags were included those bearing a new manifesto: “Step up and play”.
East Fife were on a hiding to nothing. What felt like a natural order was maintained. Even though the Ibrox club are now operating in a division below the Fife side, they fielded eight internationalists in their starting line-up. Two further SPL-standard new arrivals in Francisco Sandaza and Kevin Kyle were presented to the crowd before kick-off and took their places on the substitutes’ bench just hours after signing, with the former making his debut as a 67th minute replacement for Lewis McLeod. Kyle made his entrance with ten minutes left.
Indeed, could this Rangers side even emulate their opponents by winning the League Cup as a non top-flight club? East Fife did this under Scot Symon in 1947, the first of a trio of victories in the competition within a time-span of just six glorious years. The side being built by Ally McCoist looks considerably stronger than any Rangers fan had the right to expect. They are a living, breathing advertisment for supporters to renew season tickets, the deadline for which has now been extended until Friday.
East Fife can at least be satisfied with the gate receipts plundered from Ibrox. Few expected them to repeat their last win here nearly 40 years ago, and yet there was intrigue as to how Rangers might react to the surreal set of circumstances.
In the end, East Fife’s Second Division status didn’t count for much against a side surely strong enough to challenge for second place in the SPL. Had it not been for an inspired Michael Brown in the East Fife goal, it might have been significantly worse for the Methil side. Incredibly, anticipation for this Scottish Communities League Cup first round tie had reached fever pitch by the time the players arrived on the pitch, at 8.03pm.
Rangers moved quickly into gear and would have gone ahead after just 12 minutes but for an acrobatic save by Brown, who tipped Andrew Little’s header past the post. The opening goal proved only slightly delayed and arrived just three minutes later when McCulloch took avantage of a clever through ball from Shiels and slipped the ball beneath Brown.
The visitors’ goalkeeper was again in impressive action after 20 minutes, tipping Dorin Goian’s acrobatic effort over the bar. The tie felt over as a contest when Shiels executed a delicate chip past Brown after 32 minutes following a ball from Barrie McKay, one of only three non-internationalists in the Ibrox side. Ian Black is another, although Scotland manager Craig Levein has this week admitted he was “on the verge” of a call-up. He has sacrificed the chance to pull on a Scotland jersey in the near future in order to sample nights like these, although it might not always prove as comfortable. Rangers relished playing on the wide open spaces of Ibrox after their first appointment of the season at Brechin City’s Glebe Park ten days ago. The sun cast a late-evening glow across the stadium and Bob Marley promised “every little thing gonna be alright” over the Tannoy.
Life might yet get trickier for the new Rangers in the coming weeks and months, but they negotiated this hurdle with ease. East Fife could not be faulted for effort and Paul McManus worked tirelessly up front, for little reward. First out on to the pitch after half-time, they were quickly pegged back again when the action resumed. Shiels’ powerful effort was blocked by Brown, who could do little about Wallace’s equally well-hit effort from the rebound which fizzed past him into the corner of the net. McCulloch then scored his second of the night just after the hour mark, slipping the ball past Brown after more good work by McKay.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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