Rangers' old habits die hard as defensive lapses cast shadow over victory against 10-man Kilmarnock
They added a new dimension against Kilmarnock by finishing in the same vein with this game bookended by Kilmarnock goals - Chris Stokes and Joe Wright - before Rangers ushered themselves over the line.
Stokes was the recipient of a sleepy start at Rugby Park as a lethargic Rangers were caught cold by the pace and energy of a Kilmarnock side who started this game firmly on the front foot. Rangers gradually found their verve to unpick the damage while the dismissal of Danny Arnstrong on the hour mark for an elbow on Borna Barisic - the winger had already been booked - ensured that for the second successive game they had a numerical advantage to exploit.
By the time that Armstrong headed into the dressing room goals from Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent had turned the game in Rangers’ favour although there had remained a willingness in Kilmarnock to still take the game to the Ibrox side. Indeed, Wright will still be ruminating over a wild header after he was left unmarked in the box that may have taken Kilmarnock back onto level terms.
Down to ten men, however, the remaining half hour of this game was largely an exercise in damage limitation for Kilmarnock until they resparked into life in the closing stages.Morelos’ second of the night and Rangers’ third ought to have been the game essentially over.
It will be a concern for Michael Beale at the inability of Rangers to be reliable from the off and for the duration of 90 minutes with defensive lapses remaining a feature of this side. By the time that Kilmarnock opened the scoring, the Ibrox side could not say that they had not been warned. Having ignored the portents of three corners inside five minutes with goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, who took the gloves from Allan McGregor, flapping at one to allow Ash Taylor a free header, he was undone shortly after by another inswinger.
Armstrong’s set-piece picked out Stokes who powered a header past the Rangers goalkeeper with the advantage just reward for a Kilmarnock side who had went about their business with purpose and aggression.
It took Rangers time to recover their poise. Disjoined at times they nevertheless slowly found traction. By the time that Morelos had restored parity with James Tavernier and Fashion Sakala combining before the ball was cutback for the Colombian, Rangers had done enough to take themselves back into their comfort zone.
The second period appeared to be fairly formulaic. Kent was pivotal to Rangers taking control of the game although Kilmarnock will rue their inability to properly clear their lines as they gave him a second bite at the cherry to rifle a low shot into the bottom corner.
By the time that Morelos cushioned a header beyond Sam Walker, it looked like a straightforward procession to the points.
Wright’s goal five minutes from time as he lashed an effort past McLaughlin set the tone for an interesting finale; McLaughlin had to beat away a shot from Kyle Lafferty as the hosts threatened to snatch what had looked like an unlikely point.
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