MANY more performances like this, and Charles Green may have to rethink his claim that this is the worst Rangers team in the club’s history.
Scorers: Queen’s Park - Shankland (87); Rangers - Templeton (18, 86), Aird (35), Hemmings (68)
Referee: C Charleston
Ally McCoist’s team have turned in many substandard showings this season, but yesterday they played free of the tension which has too often gripped them.
The new Third Division champions have celebrated title wins in front of bigger crowds than this – indeed, even their last league outing at the national stadium was watched by three times as many people – and of course they have played football at a far higher level. But given the unsettling events off the park, in which Green’s takeover from Craig Whyte has come under serious scrutiny, and given too the fact they had little to play for, this was a highly respectable showing against a Queen’s Park side who also played positively throughout. Stuck in limbo at present, having done all they can in this division but not knowing what set-up they will be playing in next season, Rangers might easily have lost all sense of motivation, as they appeared to do even when they still had the league to win.
Instead they played with conviction and purpose, sticking to their game plan even when they game was well won.
They took the play to Queen’s Park from kick-off, though it took all of ten minutes for them to muster a real threat on goal with a Fraser Aird shot fired straight at keeper Neil Parry. By that time Ian Black had needed treatment after a clash of heads and Robbie Crawford had become the first name in the referee’s book after going in late on Aidan Connolly.
Those incidents apart, it was a relatively polite, low-tempo first half, given a competitive edge largely by the fact that the home team are close to securing a second-place finish.
Soon after Aird’s effort, David Templeton should have done better when through on goal, but he overran the ball, allowing Parry to block. It rebounded straight to Lee McCulloch, but the Rangers captain’s shot was also blocked.
Queen’s Park should have gone ahead a couple of minutes later, when Andrew Robertson made good ground down the left and delivered an excellent cross for Jamie Longworth. But the striker completely misjudged the flight of the ball, and from two or three yards out directed his header into the ground, from where it was cleared to safety.
Having been fortunate to stay level, Rangers took the lead two minutes later, profiting from another lucky break. A move begun by Wallace looked like breaking down when Kyle Hutton lost control, but the ball ran to McCulloch, and as he fell over the skipper succeeded in nudging it to Templeton.
The former Hearts player needed no second invitation, and from 25 yards out he lashed a right-foot shot into the corner of Parry’s net, with the goalkeeper looking less than impressive despite managing to get a hand to the ball.
Ten minutes before half-time, Parry again looked at fault when Aird put the visitors two goals up following the award of a free-kick for a foul by Peter Bradley on McCulloch. Black’s delivery deep into the box was met by McCulloch, whose cushioned volley was weakly blocked by Parry. Besides doing no more than stick his left leg out when he should have tried to collect, the Queen’s Park keeper also directed the ball across goal, allowing Aird to tap it into the net from a yard out.
In between the goals, McCulloch had the ball in the net but the whistle had blown for offside. It was a marginal decision, but it appeared to be a mistaken one.
Rangers had other chances in the first half to score more than two, notably when Hutton blasted over following an excellent run by Wallace. But equally, the home team might well have pulled one back – in particular, from a direct free-kick that Richard Little sent just wide of the left post.
With the three points secure, Rangers were less inventive in the opening stages of the second half. But after McCulloch dropped back into defence for the last half-hour, with Kane Hemmings coming on up front for right-back Anestis Argyriou, play livened up again.
The substitute was soon causing problems for the Queen’s Park defence, but his early runs were too isolated. Once he linked up with Templeton, however, he became more effective, and scored his team’s third with a fine finish.
It was Templeton’s run down the left channel that caused the danger before playing it inside to Hemmings, who took a steadying touch before scoring his first competitive goal for Rangers with a left-foot shot from 18 yards out,
A 30-yarder by Templeton, from a Barrie McKay pass, made it 4-0 with four minutes to play before Queen’s hit back and deservedly claimed a goal of their own a minute later. After Neil Alexander had parried a David Anderson shot, a cross from the left by Anthony Quinn was headed on by McCulloch only as far as Lawrence Shankland, who nodded in at the back post.
Just about the only disappointing incidents of the day for Rangers were the knock which led to Argyriou being replaced and the late hamstring strain which forced Hemmings off. Kai Naismith came on in place of the striker to play out the final few minutes, in which further chances created at both ends wrapped up an entertaining encounter.
Queen’s Park: Parry, Gallacher, Bradley, Little, Robertson, McParland, Connolly (Burns 68), Anderson, Longworth, Keenan (Quinn 84), Spittal (Shankland 80). Subs not used: Capuano, Lochhead.
Rangers: Alexander, Argyriou (Hemmings 59, Naismith 89), Faure, Cribari,Wallace, Crawford (McKay 77), Hutton, Black, Aird, McCulloch, Templeton. Subs not used: Mitchell, Smith.