AN emphatic such as this victory allows a manager the opportunity to nit-pick, since the general mood among the players is self-congratulation.
This result represented progress for Rangers, since away fixtures have tended to be uncomfortable assignments this season, but Ally McCoist could still see room for improvement.
The scoreline was not an accurate reflection of the game, since East Stirlingshire were unable to sustain possession, or distribute the ball well enough, to merit their two goals. Rangers dominated, although the ruthlessness was only evident in the final quarter of the game. Their hosts were subdued by then, physically and mentally, since the game had become a toil once Philipp Zufle was sent off for catching Kevin Kyle high in the leg with his studs.
"There was no malice, but he went in high," said John Coughlin, the East Stirlingshire manager. "He was a wee bit over-exuberent, but I'm sure he won't do it again."
Yet McCoist was irked enough by the slackness of his players during the first half that he often held his head in his hands in exasperation. The fact his team conceded two cheap goals – when Chris Hegarty missed the ball, allowing Kevin Turner to score with a header, and when Lee McCulloch barged Nathan Shepherd in the penalty area, allowing Paul Quinn to score from the spot – infuriated the Rangers manager. Neither goal had any bearing on the game, though, since Rangers were comfortably ahead when they were scored.
"I'm very disappointed with the two goals we lost," McCoist said. "Neil Alexander didn't have any saves to make, but he still had to pick the ball out of his net twice. It was a good day's work, though. It's too early to start counting chickens, but that's two away games now where the results have been pleasing.
"I've talked to the players about being more clinical and punishing teams. We're starting games at a better tempo and we have to keep doing that. If the opposition sense any weakness they will come for us."
The vulnerabilities were suffered by East Stirlingshire. The home side was prone to anxiety, and Sean Kelly was rash in the way that he brought Dean Shiels down inside the penalty area after just 11 minutes, with McCulloch scoring from the spot. The defence was exposed for Rangers' second goal, even if there was good fortune for Andrew Little in the way his shot took a deflection before looping over Grant Hay, the East Stirlingshire goalkeeper.
The outcome, by then, seemed assured, since the home side had been reduced to 10 men in the 33rd minute following Zufle's dismissal. It was a dangerous challenge, but carried less spite than some of the other confrontations, with Ian Black in particular targeted. Turner alone floored the Rangers midfielder three otimes, once with his forearm.
The aggression had to be endured, but the visitors weren't in the mood to feel victimised. Lee Wallace scored the third just after the interval, and after Quinn's spot kick Rangers lifted the tempo of their game again. Kyle scored his first goal for the club by turning Little's effort into the net from close range. Kal Naismith struck with a sweeping shot, and McCulloch completed the rout with another penalty.
"My team wasn't up for the start, and that was disappointing," said Coughlin. "We thought we could do something, but you can't give goals away as cheaply as we did."