Hampden beckoned. A win, ideally a handsome one in the circumstances, was non-negotiable against a side currently sitting fourth in the Championship. Given the 8.15pm kick-off, Rangers supporters were particularly keen to see the tie done and dusted as early as possible.
Dundee fans were far more inconvenienced and might have regretted coming as early as the 10th minute, when Steve Davis gave Rangers the lead.
But things didn’t unfold the way many expected thereafter. Far from it.
Rangers were unable to do what Liverpool had done to them seven days earlier. They didn’t – couldn’t – unload their fury on the resilient Dens Parkers. Instead, they were treated to the wrath of their own fans at the end. Despite the positive outcome, Ibrox was not a happy place. Again.
As much as he would be delighted to have made the difference, the 37-year-old Davis, could never have expected his goal would stand as the one that landed a semi-final berth against Aberdeen, or that his team – he had already been substituted – would end the game hanging on. Dundee did not have enough goal threat to truly punish another lethargic performance from Rangers.
Visiting manager Gary Bowyer later wondered why Fashion Sakala had not been given a red card after he lashed out at right back Cammy Kerr as the pair lay on the ground following a tangle for which they were both booked. There was still half an hour left. “That would have made it interesting,” he said.
The little-seen Ridvan Yilmaz was one change of note for Rangers though Van Bronckhorst had hinted that the Turkish full back would be handed a chance on the eve of the Premier Sports Cup quarter final. Other than that, the hosts comprised players who have been in and around the first team all season. Jon McLaughlin made a return in goal with Allan McGregor rested altogether.
There was an early scare for the home fans when Josh Mulligan closed his eyes and headed over from a good position after Luke McCowan’s cross. Any hope the Dundee fans gleaned from this was quickly dashed when Rangers took a 10th minute lead. Cammy Kerr had his pocket picked by Scott Wright whose shot was only parried by goalkeeper Adam Legzdins. Davis was on hand to head the rebound home.
Having been bullied by Liverpool last week, they were keen for their team to put someone else to the sword. But Rangers didn’t build on the early breakthrough.
An Alfredo Morelos effort after a cute James Tavernier pass into his path was well saved by Legzdins but the Rangers striker really should have scored. He continues to exhibit the result of lack of match action.
A speculative effort from Yilmaz, meanwhile, cleared the bar. The young Turkish full back was given plenty of encouragement from the home fans, who seemed delighted to see him start a game for the first time since the previous round’s win over Queen of the South.
They were not so enamoured by the way Dundee were allowed off the hook. Mulligan might have levelled the scores just before half-time but his curling effort went narrowly over.
It was much the same story in the second half. Morelos trudged dejectedly off for Kemar Roofe, making his first appearance of the season. Another sub, Charlie McCann, shot over with two minutes left as the home side created a rare shooting opportunity of note.