Rangers returned to winning ways – and second place – just in time for next weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final clash with Celtic. Whether they returned to form is another question.
It was a good time for Kenny Miller to get back on the score-sheet, Alfredo Morelos too. Miller scored for the first time since October after being handed his first start this year. It now seems certain the 38-year-old will be called upon at Hampden.
Three goals in the last 22 minutes put a pleasing sheen on the scoreline for Rangers and turned it into a potentially very damaging afternoon for relegation-threatened Dundee. They now have a worse goal difference than the team directly below them, Ross County. However, they do enjoy the comfort of a four-point cushion.
Neil McCann later expressed disappointment about last midweek’s rescheduled clash with Celtic taking place when it did, meaning the Dens Park side were left with three tough fixtures in six days at a crucial stage of the season.
Dundee were denied by a post in the 0-0 draw at Celtic Park on Wednesday but were saved by an upright twice in quick succession here and then again in the second-half. Miller hit Elliott Parish’s left-hand post after running in to meet Daniel Candeias’ cross after eight minutes. Jamie Murphy than struck the same post with a cross cum shot.
Candeias also hit the post 11 minutes after half-time. This, together with the four goals they did score, serve to give the impression Rangers were rampant. However, until near the very end, this was far from the story.
Dundee will feel they could and perhaps should have again taken something from a second trip to Glasgow within four days.
The difference between McCann’s side and Rangers is the hosts have a pair of strikers who, whatever their faults, have not quite forgotten where the goal is. Miller got his first goal since a brace against Hearts a in October. Morelos struck for the first time since February.
Rangers fans might previously have feared it was going to be one of those days. Graeme Murty made a statement by dropping Bruno Alves to the bench to accommodate the returning Ross McCrorie.
Alves came on eventually, replacing McCrorie after 65 minutes. But McCann felt the Portuguese defender should have gone off again two minutes later for what he described as a “scissor challenge” on Craig Wighton, who has just returned from a cruciate injury. Alves was only booked. Simon Murray hit the top of the net with the resultant free-kick.
It was a scrappy match. Misplaced passes, careless defending and slack finishing were order of the day. It’s just that Dundee displayed these faults more glaringly. Rangers’ third goal will cause McCann particular anguish. Genseric Kusunga, who signed a new deal with Dundee last week, was caught in possession by Murphy after receiving a short bye-kick from Parish. Murphy made no mistake with the finish.
Rangers’ opener six minutes before half-time stemmed from a loose pass from Lewis Spence combined with Sofien Moussa’s failure to react. Murphy sped away with the ball before laying off for Miller, who was clinical with his finish.
Dundee had just spurned a good chance after Moussa had stepped inside Russell Martin before sending a left-foot shot just over.
Miller later slashed a chance wide after Roarie Deacon’s misdirected defensive header. It might have proved more significant had Wes Foderingham not saved Murray’s shot low down at his near post shortly afterwards.
Murty did replace Greg Docherty, who he revealed had felt sick at half-time, with Andy Halliday, who helped Rangers belatedly take hold of the midfield.
Morelos turned in Candeias’ cross after 68 minutes and Murphy put the game beyond Dundee with Rangers’ third ten minutes later. Candeias got the goal his efforts deserved in the final minute of regulation time, by which time Parish had been replaced by Calum Ferrie after the Dundee goalkeeper was injured diving at the feet of Morelos.
The Rangers striker was booked for simulation, meaning he is suspended for the first league game after the split. An angry Murty said Rangers would consider whether to appeal.