No-frills Rangers avoid Raith slip up as fans stage protest over 'offensive' Ibrox banner
Trailing Celtic by nine points in the Premiership with 10 games remaining ensured that Sunday's quarter-final showdown against Raith Rovers would not be taken lightly, particularly after the scare of the previous round. Partick Thistle's performance at Ibrox last month did Raith no favours as Rangers manager Michael Beale took no chances with his starting line-up in pursuit of, realistically, the last remaining piece on silverware on offer, making only one change to the 11 that destroyed Hibs at Easter Road in midweek with John Lundstram replacing Ryan Jack in midfield.
A set piece header from Connor Goldson three minutes before half-time, an own goal from Ryan Nolan early in the second half, and a late effort from substitute Scott Arfield wrapped up the win in front of a quieter than usual Ibrox with the ultras group, Union Bears, staging a protest by remaining outside the stadium after they were prevented from displaying a banner deemed by the club to be 'offensive’ against the police.
Up until their opener, Rangers had largely laboured to break down a resilient Rovers defence - continuing the theme of their performances this season against sides who defend in numbers against them. But as has been the case since the appointment of Beale in November, they ultimately came up with the answers.
Raith, who despite sitting seventh in the Championship had lost only once in their previous 15 fixtures, were hampered by a number of enforced absences with captain Scott Brown among seven players unavailable to boss Ian Murray. It meant Adam Masson, the 18-year-old right-back, was put up against against Ryan Kent in only his second senior start. He, along with the rest of his team-mates, did themselves proud in front of their 1,573 travelling fans.
The odds were stacked against them, but Rovers almost shocked their hosts inside 90 seconds after Connor Goldson, perhaps dazzled by Raith's lucent pink kit, passed the ball straight to Esmael Goncalves inside the centre-circle. The on-loan Livingston striker looked up, saw Alan McGregor well off his line, and fired an outrageous attempt from inside his own half that looped over the stranded Rangers goalkeeper and swerved narrowly off target. That would have made things helluva interesting.
Rangers then, as expected, started to dominate proceedings, but frustration at the lack of penetration was building until Goldson bulleted home a header from a Borna Barisic corner on 42 minutes. Nolan sliced a cross from James Tavernier into his own net 13 minutes into the second half to end Raith's hopes, although the Kirkcaldy side showed spirit and almost pulled one back when a neat move saw substitute Ethan Ross through on Alan McGregor only to fluff his lines.
Arfield slotted home the third in the 87th minute after Rangers had made a raft of substitutions including the return of Ridvan Yilmaz and John Souttar from injury.
While an attendance of 41,168 - on top of added TV revenue - will ensure a healthy payday for Raith, for Rangers the focus is now on Monday's draw and a potential semi-final against either Celtic, Inverness or the winner of Falkirk v Ayr.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.