It IS almost five years since the Rangers supporters had it so good.
Whatever iteration of the Ibrox club you choose to see in the current set-up, it was like old times at the Govan ground yesterday as the home team took apart upper-tier opposition to storm into a Hampden semi-final.
Not since the League Cup success of 2011 has a Rangers team reached the final of a major cup competition. If Mark Warburton’s side perform as they did in dismantling Dundee, then the pursuit of a first major honour since liquidation in 2012 – the year after a top flight title win – can extend beyond the Scottish Cup last four that awaits them in six weeks’ time.
Rangers were sharper and smarter than a much talked-up Dundee. From the very moment that Harry Forrester fired them ahead after only 13 seconds, they never looked like relinquishing a winning position against dazzled and disorientated opponents who required a full 40 minutes to register a – weak – shot on target.
With the Championship as good as bagged and the final of the thus-far elusive Petrofac Cup to come against Peterhead on 10 April, the possibility of a three-trophy haul for Warburton is a real one. Celtic’s fragility means Rangers will fancy their Scottish Cup chances whoever they are paired with in today’s draw. Ronny Deila’s men require to overcome Morton at home today to stand in the way of Warburton’s men.
It must be said, too, that is was a good day for Rangers on and off the field. The home faithful – not as numerous as expected with the attendance at 30,944 – did not indulge in any dodgy singing. Asked by the club to refrain from such in a statement on the Friday evening, their barracking of Gary Harkins – who had called Rangers a “new team” – was more dutiful than dastardly. Their mood was too upbeat to concern themselves with vanquished opponents on an afternoon that felt so victorious.
With Rangers fizzing on the flanks with Barrie McKay and Forrester, Dundee flailed in coping with such threats, and the movement of Kenny Miller through the middle.
The team Paul Hartley fielded on Wednesday night that ought to have won at Celtic Park was described as a shadow team. In reality, it was yesterday that the Dens Park men were a shadow of themselves, young Kevin Holt as much as any visiting player. The ferocity with which Rangers forced themselves on their visitors caused the full-back to make a hash of getting a pass under control. Possession was gifted to Forrester, who galloped forward down the right channel and cracked a drive into the top corner.
With a third goal in three starts, he has certainly overcome a slow start to his Ibrox career.
The tie could have been officially over before the interval such was Rangers’ domination and drive. Within two minutes of the restart it became only a matter of how many for Rangers and again the opening was created down Holt’s side. With delightful interplay, Forrester dinked the ball in, and McKay chested it into the path of Miller who, from a tight angle, hooked in for Jason Holt to bundle over the line from point-blank range.
Unsurprisingly, Hartley’s biggest beef was with his team’s start – to either half. “The last thing we said to them before we went out was make sure you have a good start to the game. We were a goal down after 13 seconds and what that does to the home team, it just gives them a massive lift. But we have got to be honest with ourselves and say Rangers totally deserved to win today.
“For the first probably 20-25 minutes, they were all over us. We had a couple of half-chances near the end of the first, went in at half-time and tried to regroup and tell them we are still in the tie, that you have to stay in the game in the second half. Then a minute and a half later we are two goals down and we just didn’t recover. We just didn’t perform today. There’s no point in dressing anything up, our main players just didn’t perform.”
Everyone in home colours performed. Andy Halliday could feel good about his day when he made it 3-0 after 55 minutes by curling a 22-yard free-kick round the wall to beat Scott Bain, despite the keeper getting a touch.
The icing on the cake was supplied by Rangers captain Lee Wallace as he brought up the landmark of 200 games in Ibrox colours when he waltzed through the Dundee backline and sidefooted wide of Bain for an 84th minute goal that ensured the superiority of Warburton’s men was accurately reflected in the scoreline.