RANGERS marched on to the fourth round of the Scottish Cup and kept alive their dreams of a quadruple with a victory ground out against a plucky Dumbarton side.
The Ibrox club had defeated the Sons 3-0 in the Championship last weekend, but there was little danger of a repeat performance as Dumbarton competed from a defensive formation.
Home manager Ian Murray, pictured right, said: “I thought we had to change things after last week, and I thought we deserved something out of the game.”
It was a curiously passionless affair at times, despite this being a cup tie with almost a 140-year history, Dumbarton having won a replay 1-0 when the two clubs met in the second round of the second-ever Scottish Cup in December, 1874 – only Rangers’ third competitive match.
The opening exchanges of a frankly poor first half were even, with the first real attempt on goal falling to Dumbarton’s Mitch Megginson after six minutes, his low shot across goal directed wide by the diving Lee Robinson.
The pattern of play was soon set, with Rangers pressing forward often aimlessly against a packed home defence, though to be fair Dumbarton showed pace and intent on their frequent breakouts, Colin Nish displaying a willingness to have a go in the 19th minute when firing just high and wide from 20 yards out.
With a third of the game gone, and their creativity non-existent, Rangers had not achieved a shot on target despite having the better of the play.
Despite Dumbarton’s defence doing a good impression of the Rock behind the stadium, Kris Boyd had the ball in the net after 41 minutes, turning Richard Foster’s shot-cross past Jamie Ewings, but the Rangers striker was clearly offside.
At the other end, Andy Graham cut in from the right wing and fired in a low left foot shot which Robinson held comfortably – Dumbarton had recorded more shots on goal at that point.
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Just when it looked as though the home goal would deservedly survive intact to half time, Macleod’s strong run earned him some space on the right and he cut the ball through to Boyd. Despite the ball bobbling under his feet, Boyd had time to recover and slam the ball low to Ewings’ left and in off the post.
Dumbarton started the second half much more positively, but they should have been two down after less than five minutes. Boyd broke away to chase a long through ball past befuddled defenders and found himself with only Ewings to beat, the goalkeeper doing well to flatten himself and use his legs to divert the low shot.
It was a slightly better match now, and Macleod was Rangers’ best hope for more goals, his 58th-minute low shot finding the side netting. He also put Kenny Miller into a great attacking position, but the veteran fluffed it, before Macleod again hit a low one that Ewings saved well.
Dumbarton were really trying to make a game of it without varying their basic deep-lying style, and when Ian Black conceded a needless free kick ten minutes from time, Scott Agnew sent in a tempting cross which Graham headed goalwards only for Robinson to make an excellent fingertip save at full length.
Darren McGregor was booked after he hauled down Megginson to stop one late attack. Fleming then flashed a shot wide before play switched to the other end, where Macleod’s deep cross was headed over by substitute Jon Daly.
In the dying rain-sodden and windswept minutes, Daly missed the proverbial sitter, ballooning his shot high over after Macleod put him clean through.
Agnew had one final chance with a 25-yard free kick in the fourth minute of injury time, but his shot flew harmlessly over and Rangers advanced in the tournament they last won in 2008-09.
“I don’t think we played as well as we did last week but we got the goal and deserved to go through,” said Rangers manager Ally McCoist. “We had chances to make the scoreline more comprehensive but the most important factor was getting a result and making sure we were in the hat.”
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