On a blustery Sunday afternoon, Aribo’s fleet-footed and tireless display was the biggest plus point for Rangers manager Steven Gerrard whose team stretched their unbeaten start to the season to nine matches.
Gerrard looks to have snared a bargain in the 23-year-old midfielder, signed from Charlton for just £300,000 this summer.
Aribo scored his fourth goal of the campaign to wrap up the win for Rangers after Jermain Defoe and an own goal from East Fife defender Ross Dunlop had put the visitors in cruise control.
This was an opportunity for Gerrard to analyse the strength in depth of his squad which was further bolstered in midweek by the arrival of Andy King on a season-long loan from Leicester City.
The Welsh international midfielder started the afternoon among the substitutes, while Gerrard made no fewer than 10 changes to his starting line-up. Glen Kamara was the only survivor from the eleven which kicked off against Midtjylland in the Europa League on Thursday night.
East Fife manager Darren Young was true to his word in resisting any temptation to simply ‘park the bus’ and defend deeply in the hope of catching Rangers on the counter attack. He deployed two strikers in Ryan Wallace and Anton Dowds ahead of two well drilled and defensively diligent banks of four.
Rangers felt they should have been given the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot after just five minutes. Jordan Jones showed impressive pace and footwork to force his way into the area where he went down under a nudge in the back from the outstripped Stewart Murdoch.
Referee Don Robertson was well positioned and decided the contact wasn’t sufficient to justify the award of a spot-kick for which Jones and his team-mates claimed vociferously.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the radically revamped nature of their line-up, Rangers were more than a little disjointed on occasions as they struggled to find fluency and momentum on the artificial pitch. Kamara was uncharacteristically guilty of surrendering possession cheaply several times and it was his mistake which led to a great chance for the home side in the 15th minute. Liam Watt was able to find time and space to deliver a fine cross from the left which found its way to Aaron Dunsmore at the far post. It needed a fine reaction save from Wes Foderingham to prevent Dunsmore inflicting an early shock to the system for Rangers.
The visitors responded through Greg Docherty who forced his way down the right and floated in a cross which Jones might have done better than head wide from around eight yards.
Andy Halliday, Rangers’ captain for the day in the absence of James Tavernier, wasn’t too far away with a dipping free-kick from 22 yards after Aribo had been fouled by East Fife skipper Scott Agnew.
Just when frustration was starting to set in amongst the travelling support, Rangers made the breakthrough. Filip Helander, making his competitive debut in a new look central defensive pairing with George Edmundson, stepped into midfield and picked out Defoe with a piercing through ball. The veteran striker spun clear of two wrong-footed East Fife defenders and drilled a precise shot beyond goalkeeper Jordan Hart.
Rangers looked to put the tie to bed before half-time but the hosts remained dogged. Docherty did manage to cut them open with a surging run into the box but he was unable to pick out a team-mate with his cutback. The ball broke to Greg Stewart who dragged a shot wide.
Defoe then passed up a chance to double his tally just before the break when he was unable to force the ball home from close range after East Fife failed to properly clear a cross from Jones.
Aribo came close two minutes into the second half when his clever flick from another Jones cross forced Hart into a decent save.
Rangers continued to match the impressive work rate of their League 1 opponents and eventually their dominance of possession paid off when they made it 2-0 in the 56th minute. Stewart’s free-kick was headed down by Jones into the path of Helander whose attempt to divert it home saw the ball helped into his own net by the unfortunate Dunlop.
Gerrard took the opportunity to hand debuts to both King and Brandon Barker as they replaced Docherty and Stewart for the final half hour. Both showed some neat touches without looking fully match sharp.
Rangers looked to stay firmly on the front foot and Aribo came close to a memorable individual goal when he weaved his way into the penalty area but pulled his shot narrowly wide of Hart’s right hand post.
East Fife remained competitive and substitute Chris Duggan almost pulled a goal back when his shot was well saved by Foderingham.
Fittingly, it was Aribo who had the final word when he forced the ball home from close range six minutes from after Hart had flapped horribly at a Barker corner.