Ally McCoist last night praised his players for developing the toughness and self-discipline to cope with life in the third division.

Rangers extended their lead at the top of the table with a 1-0 victory over Peterhead, who had four players booked and Rory McAllister sent-off.

The Peterhead striker was booked for a foul on Lee Wallace in the second half, then seven minutes later handled the ball as he tried to bring it under control inside the Rangers penalty area, leading to Mike Tumilty showing him a second yellow.

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Ian Black suffered a series of heavy challenges, including being launched into the advertising hoardings at the side of the pitch by Dean Cowie, the Peterhead midfielder, while Francisco Sandaza may have broken his nose when he was kicked in the head while challenging for the ball.

Yet Rangers matched their opponents' aggression and physicality, and were worthy of taking all three points.

On their last visit to Balmoor, on the opening day of the season, the Ibrox side needed a late equaliser to salvage a point, but the players are now more streetwise to the realities of the division.

"After the first game of the season, they had to [get tougher], and it was a shock to them," McCoist said of his players. "The good away results that we are getting just now are based on solidity and defensive resilience. We were a lot better than we were in the opening game of the season, and we're delighted with the progress being made, but there's plenty of work still to be done."

Sandaza struck the game's decisive blow, with his first goal since last August. The Spaniard said later that "the referees should watch the tackles," after seeing Black receive some rough treatment and claiming that the midfielder "could have broken his arm". But McCoist dismissed the suggestion that his players need more protection, and seemed wistful for the days when the game was even more robust.

"The physicality has been taken out of the game too much," he said, "so I'm not going to be hypocritical and start complaining about some of the tough tackling that our players receive, it's part of the game. The referee has a job to do and I have no complaints."