IT WAS the calm after the storm.
Rangers were back in more serene surroundings last night as they returned to SPFL League 1 action following two cup knockout blows, and the outcome remained pleasingly familiar for manager Ally McCoist, the champions extending their unbeaten league run in making it 32 matches without defeat in Scotland's third tier with victory over Forfar Athletic.
Just days after his side lost out in a frenetic, end-to-end William Hill Scottish Cup tie against Dundee United at Ibrox, a result which followed an embarrassing Ramsdens Cup final defeat to Raith Rovers, it was to prove altogether more low-key and more straightforward event as second-half goals from Ian Black, Bilel Mohsni and Dean Shiels earned Rangers a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Loading article content
The hosts turned in their best showing of what has been a mixed campaign, in terms of their performances at least, against Jackie McNamara's side at the weekend but their journey continued with another cruise to victory last night. There was no card display, no buzz in the air and only scant encouragement from the terraces as Rangers struggled to raise their game once again but the points were more than merited.
"It was good to get back to what we have been doing for the majority of the league campaign," McCoist said. "We deserved it. I thought we played some good football at times.
"You worry when you don't take your chances, like we didn't do against Raith Rovers and United, and didn't do in the first half. But we got three very good goals."
After the din of Saturday's cup tie, there was a more sombre start to proceedings last night as Ibrox fell silent to join the rest of the football family and remember the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, and the 1971 Ibrox disaster which claimed the lives of 66 supporters; the minute's silence impeccably observed by all.
When the action got under way, it was mostly moans and groans that were heard from the home contingent of the 39,704 crowd as Rangers once again toiled against part-time opposition. Gone was the up-and-at-'em approach from the weekend as Dick Campbell's side defended in numbers.
Rangers headed for the dressing room at half-time having failed to find the net but they should have had the points already secured as a lacking of cutting edge again came back to haunt them. Black saw a drive from the edge of the area tipped over by goalkeeper Darren Hill before Jon Daly spurned a hat trick of chances as he headed wide, skewed a shot badly with only Hill to beat and missed the target all together when played in by Nicky Law. When Shiels was booked for diving it only compounded Rangers' frustrations.
It was not just the on-field fare that brought about more discontent at Ibrox, with those in the directors box once again finding themselves the target of fan fury. The chief executive Graham Wallace and his fellow powerbrokers were told where to stick their season tickets and were urged to "get out of our club" by a section of the crowd still disgruntled at the direction Rangers are heading thanks to the leadership of an increasingly under-fire board.
A video montage before kick-off and at half-time was designed to stir the spirits of supporters and get them to renew season tickets for next year's campaign. But the plea from the boardroom is likely to fall on many deaf ears after Rangers' Union of Fans threw their weight behind Dave King's plans for a season-ticket trust that could see Ibrox and Murray Park handed over to supporters before cash is released to the club.
"Everybody involved is happy with me staying out of it, which I am delighted to do," McCoist said. "What will be, will be and we will continue to get the work done. That is all we can do. It wouldn't help matters if we started getting involved in it. We will just keep out of it."
There have been several high-profile demonstrations against the Ibrox hierarchy already in this season of discontent for Rangers but, a few jeers and chants aside, the men seated in the directors' box emerged fairly unscathed last night, the crowd instead focusing their attentions on the efforts of McCoist's side.
As the clock ticked on and the scoreboard failed to tick over, the atmosphere became increasingly fractious but a rare moment of quality finally provided the first goal of the evening with just over 20 minutes remaining, Black finding the top corner with a superb effort from fully 30 yards.
The goal that sealed the victory came soon after and while was a more scrappy effort, it was no less important, Bilel Mohsni finding himself in the right place at the right time to head home at the back post after Shiels' cross clipped the bar.
Just minutes later, Shiels added a third with a diving header as Rangers' chalked off another small step on their big journey with little fuss.