No spluttering: Hungry Rangers feast upon limp Ross County - but it could have been very different

Rangers could not have hand-picked the fixture better for their return to domestic action after Wednesday night's Champions League heroics. Ross County arrived in town from Dingwall having never won at Ibrox and missing two players who make up the spine of the team. All the ingredients were there for a routine victory for the hosts at Ibrox. Giovanni van Bronckhorst's men just needed to follow the recipe and three points would be served up to them.

In the end, Rangers feasted upon the Staggies in front of a joyous crowd at Ibrox, triumphing 4-0 to move to the summit of the cinch Premiership, albeit Celtic can go above them on Sunday depending on how they get on against Dundee United at Tannadice.

Rangers could not afford another choking episode this early in the season, such as the one they suffered last weekend in the cinch Premiership at Hibs, blowing a lead twice and ending the game with nine men. There was little chance of such events repeating themselves here. Once Rangers went ahead, they never looked back.

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The midweek conquering of PSV in Eindhoven allows Rangers to dine at Europe's top table until early November at least – Ajax, Liverpool and Napoli await them in the Champions League – but their bread and butter is the league. Van Bronckhorst recognised the importance of getting a resounding win against Malky Mackay's team and therefore named a very strong starting XI full of attacking intent. Antonio Colak once again led the line with suspended and out-of-favour Alfredo Morelos nowhere to be seen. Tom Lawrence, Malik Tillman, Scott Wright and Ryan Kent were the support act behind him. Deep-lying playmaker Glen Kamara missed out with a small injury but he was not missed, given the condition of Ross County.

Rangers' Antonio Colak celebrates making it 3-0 during the win against Ross County.Rangers' Antonio Colak celebrates making it 3-0 during the win against Ross County.
Rangers' Antonio Colak celebrates making it 3-0 during the win against Ross County.

Mackay will have cursed the timing of two retrospective red cards handed out to his captain and defender Jack Baldwin and midfield tyro Ross Callachan for incidents last week in the 1-0 win over Kilmarnock. They are the sort of players you want when coming to Ibrox. County put up some resistance in a bright enough first 20 minutes for them but as soon as Rangers sank their teeth properly into them, they were easy meat.

It is worth mentioning, however, that Rangers almost scolded themselves badly before taking the lead. James Sands, so good in Eindhoven, looked a little uncomfortable against Ross County's lively forward Jordy Hiwula and was already on a yellow card when, on 17 minutes, the two players tangled 30 yards from the Rangers goal. Those of a County persuasion argued that Sands had two hands on Hiwula's waist and had hauled him to the ground. Had referee Don Robertson agreed with such a synopsis, then he would have sent Sands off. As it was, he waved play on, much to Mackay's chagrin on the touchline. Van Bronckhorst wagged a finger in the sky, clearly unimpressed with the temerity of making such a claim.

Eight minutes later, Rangers were ahead. County goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw had been busy prior to the opening goal, making two good saves from Malik Tillman, but he could do nothing to stop John Lundstram's shot from just outside the penalty box beating him, not helped at all by a slight yet decisive deflection off Ben Purrington's head.

Rangers now had the cutlery out, knife and fork stuck into their Highland prey. A second goal before half time was inevitable; it came via the in-form Colak, hooking in his sixth goal for the club on 39 minutes after Wright stood up an accurate cross. James Tavernier so nearly took a bite out of County right on the referee's whistle, only for his header to clatter off Laidlaw's bar.

Ross County felt Rangers defender James Sands should have been sent off for this tangle with Jordy Hiwula.Ross County felt Rangers defender James Sands should have been sent off for this tangle with Jordy Hiwula.
Ross County felt Rangers defender James Sands should have been sent off for this tangle with Jordy Hiwula.

The 15-minute pause did little to sate Rangers' appetite. Purrington had to launch across goal to stop a net-bound curled effort from Kent from finding the top corner of their goal.

Kent was having a quite marvellous game, full of tricks and movement. County could not get near him. One of the gripes about the winger is that his end product is not what it should be often enough for a player blessed with such quality. Not today. A clever nutmeg, then through-ball to Colak on 59 minutes put a goal on a plate for the Croat. He gobbled it up emphatically. Three-nil, 30 minutes to go, plenty more eating to be had, one suspected – although not for Kent, who made way for Rabbi Matondo. Tillman also came off.

Rangers aren't quite the same attacking force without those two but they still made chances. Colak was hungry for his hat-trick but he would have to settle for two goals here, Laidlaw making a great save on 71 minutes to deny him before the striker, too, was removed from the pitch, Van Bronckhorst was in no mood to risk his key players against an increasingly ragged and agitated victim. Laidlaw was the only one putting up any sort of defiance now, smart stops from Tavernier and Lawrence keeping the score to 3-0.

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Yet even he was running out of fight. Tavernier's cross made its way to substitute Steven Davis and he side-footed home to get in on the act on 80 minutes. County now resembled a carcass. Rangers had ripped them to shreds.

That was to be it for Rangers, though, who played the final ten minutes like a team nursing full stomachs from a right good feed to cap off an excellent week for them.