RANGERS’ inevitable progress towards the Third Division title continued at windswept Borough Briggs, but Elgin City deserve plenty of plaudits for pushing Ally McCoist’s men hard, in the first half in particular.
Scorers: Elgin - Moore (18), Nicolson (32); Rangers - Little (5, 24), McCulloch (41, 60), Macleod (64), Hutton (83)
They might not be so good at selling the correct number of tickets, but they proved they can play the right way as they handed Rangers a scare after twice pegging them back. However, two goals each from Lee McCulloch and Andy Little and strikes from Lewis Macleod and Kyle Hutton gave the visitors a deserved win after
fitness told in the latter stages.
This was a rearranged encounter after Elgin sold too many tickets for the original fixture, resulting in the match being called off on safety grounds, the club being fined and embarrassment all round.
They had nothing to be embarrassed about yesterday, though and, for a long time, it looked like they would use the blustery conditions to their advantage as they made sure Rangers knew they were in a game all right in the first half.
But Elgin folded in the second half and, although McCoist was at pains not to concede the title is over, to all inents and purposes it is, with Rangers growing stronger by the week and the element of surprise which gave teams an advantage at the start of the season now evaporating.
McCoist said: “We’re in a good place just now and we have earned the right to be where we are and that’s just as important. We’ve still got a lot of big games coming up over the festive period. So there’s miles and miles to go and the next few months will decide how it goes but, that said, we have got to be delighted with the position that the boys have put us in.
“It was a big game for us because I know they fancied it today, especially on their own pitch, and a lot of people would have looked at the conditions with the wind and the rain and a horrible dreich day. If there was going to be a shock – if you want to call it a shock – it might have been today but I thought we thoroughly deserved the win.”
Northern Irish international Little also admitted Rangers are beginning to motor in Scotland’s fourth tier now. He said: “At half time I felt, with the wind up, we could go forward from the first half. We don’t want to be conceding goals but we are scoring so that’s positive. We are good going forward, we’re dangerous. Every-
one is getting on the scoresheet and I think we’re entertaining the fans as much as we can.”
A piper led the teams on to a windswept Borough Briggs, which –ironically, in the wake of last month’s ticket fiasco – didn’t look full. And it took Rangers just five minutes to make the breakthrough when David Templeton threaded a defence-splitting pass through to Little, who coolly rounded keeper John Gibson and stroked the ball into the net.
However, far from folding, the home side responded magnificently and grabbed a deserved equaliser in the 18th minute. A long kick out from keeper Gibson was wind-assisted to the edge of the Rangers box and Chris Hegarty’s header landed perfectly for Daniel Moore, who smacked a glorious left-footed drive which whizzed past Neil
Alexander into the corner of the net. It was a tremendous strike.
However, Elgin’s defence looked vulnerable every time Rangers went up the park and the visitors regained the lead six minutes later when Lee Wallace exploited the left wing for the ever-dangerous Templeton who squared the ball for Little, who couldn’t miss for his second goal.
Again, City weren’t for feeling sorry for themselves and equalised in the 32nd minute. Hegarty was shown a yellow card for clumsily bringing down David Niven outside the box. Mark Nicolson lined up the free kick at the edge of the box and curled a wonderful right-footed effort into the top corner of Alexander’s net. Rangers took the lead yet again four minutes before the break. Hutton linked up with Little on the right, who fed McCulloch. The veteran Rangers captain had his back to goal but was afforded far too much time to turn and spin before drilling a shot high into the net.
Rangers ended the game as a contest on the hour mark as McCulloch collected Templeton’s pass and turned and smashed a low drive past Gibson. They grabbed their fifth soon after when MacLeod’s shot was too good for the Elgin keeper and the spirit was finally knocked out of Elgin and Kyle Hutton made it six late on before Alexander saved Moore’s late spot kick.
Elgin City: Gibson; Cameron; Nicolson; Crighton; Niven; Wyness (Beveridge 69); Harkins (McMullan 84); O’Donoghue; Moore; Leslie; Gunn (Millar 80).
Rangers: Alexander; Argyriou (Perry 46); Cribari; Hegarty; Wallace; Little; MacLeod (Sandaza 80); Hutton; Templeton (Crawford 69); McCulloch; McKay.
Referee: B Colvin. Attendance: 3,448.