Craig Fowler looks back over the previous eight months to select the key matches in Rangers’ march to the Ladbrokes Championship title.
Hibs 2 - 6 Rangers (Saturday 25 July)
Ok, ok. So this wasn’t a league game. But it was the first game of the season against the side everyone picked to be the closest challengers to Rangers for the second tier title. Things might have gone just as swimmingly for Rangers even if they’d lost this game, but you have to believe this was a major boost to a newly assembled squad playing together in their first competitive match.
Rangers 5 - 0 Raith Rovers (Saturday 5 September)
Mark Warburton’s side were barrelling through teams with such conviction that there was genuine, real life talk of them winning every single match in the season. Obvious nonsense though it may have been, even Raith boss Ray McKinnon conceded it was a possibility after a match in which the visitors were lucky only to lose by five. As well as this being the ultimate peak of Rangers’ powers, the game also saw the best performance from on loan winger Nathan Oduwa. The Tottenham Hotspur kid largely flattered to deceive the rest of this brief stay at Ibrox.
Dumbarton 1 - 2 Rangers (Saturday 19 September)
This was the first time they really had to grind out a result and it’s something they would become adept at as the season went into the winter months. It wasn’t until the 64th minute they managed to make the breakthrough when Martyn Waghorn fired in from distance before the striker doubled the tally from the penalty spot - as he tends to do.
Falkirk 2 - 1 Rangers (Saturday 19 December)
They say you learn more from failure than success and that was certainly true of Rangers after their trip to the Falkirk Stadium. If the Raith win was their peak, this was their nadir. It came after a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Morton and was another example of their frailties in defence. The heroics of home stopper Danny Rogers may have denied them a point but Falkirk missed enough chances to see the game out, and it was part of a wider worrying trend. Having continuously insisted Rangers would play only one style of football, Mark Warburton relented and reined in the attacking exuberance somewhat, strengthening them as a team. Which was just as well considering their next opponent.
Rangers 4 - 2 Hibs (Monday 28 December)
Hibs’ collapse in recent weeks almost makes this win seem inconsequential but it was huge at the time. The visitors had clawed back an 11-point deficit and went into the match level on points with their hosts. When Jason Cummings gave them the lead it looked as if Warburton was going to have a full blown crisis on his hands. Thankfully for Rangers, Jason Holt was at the top of his game, scoring twice and swinging the match irretrievably in his side’s favour, which can also be said of the title race.
Dumbarton 0 - 6 Rangers (Saturday 2 January)
This has been the biggest victory of the season thus far and demonstrated Rangers were back to their best with a vengeance following the pre-Christmas slump. This game sat second in a run of four matches where they would score an incredible 19 goals. Kenny Miller’s hat-trick opened up an unassailable lead before Waghorn, Andy Halliday and James Tavernier completed the rout.
Queen of the South 0 - 1 Rangers (Sunday 21 February)
This was the first game Rangers faced after it emerged that Waghorn may miss the rest of the season. Many wondered if this was the route Hibs needed to get back in the title race, and having just watched Alan Stubbs’ side defeat Alloa half an hour or so before kick-off, thereby closing the gap, it’s fair to say the pressure was on. Queen of the South were stuffy, dangerous on the counter-attack and caused quite a few panicky moments among the visiting rearguard. However, Rangers managed to escape with a win thanks to a terrific goal from Miller and a commanding performance from keeper Wes Foderingham. Hibs’ collapse began soon after and the title was destined for Ibrox.
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