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Berwick Rangers 1 Rangers 3: Off key and out of tune

By late Saturday afternoon, Ally McCoist was reminding Rangers fans to "do the correct thing".

Sebastien Faure celebrates after rounding off the scoring
Sebastien Faure celebrates after rounding off the scoring

He was addressing the minority who besmirched their club by singing sectarian songs during the first half of the game against Berwick Rangers. It must exasperate him that, after all the progress made in recent years and the remarkable commitment of the supporters this season, a small and moronic element can still harm Rangers' reputation.

Charles Green and some of his fellow directors are still new to much of the nuances and backstory of Scottish life and the way the Old Firm exist as social, political and cultural institutions. But the Rangers chief executive will be acutely aware of the damage that those with extreme views can cause, and it will have infuriated him that during a live broadcast, ESPN felt compelled to apologise for some of the singing.

Perspective is required. It should not be ignored, for instance, that Northumbria police praised the behaviour of the majority of Rangers fans, and there were only three arrests, two of which were for alleged sectarian offences. It was also clear that while a small section of the away support, in the covered cow shed, sang The Billy Boys, No Pope Of Rome and other songs that can have sectarian add-ons, the rest of the support did not join in.

As a club, Rangers' response was swift, condemning the behaviour in a statement during the second half, and there was genuine frustration within the club. At half-time, Rangers' head of safety and security, David Martin, and his colleague, Robin Howe – both former police officers with vast experience of dealing with football crowds – addressed this group of fans, some of whom were waving a Union Bears flag. Police also filmed them during the first 45 minutes.

On away trips this season, Rangers fans have generally behaved impeccably, turning out in great numbers to support their team, and the singing of such songs has long been eradicated. A minority still cleave to an anti-Catholic identity but the overwhelming response and comments of Rangers fans following the game displayed a genuine desire to ostracise them, while recognising that this was a momentary aberration, albeit a high-profile one.

"We've all come a long way in recent years and we have to continue the good work that's been done before," said McCoist. "You probably do get the occasional step back to move forward again, but I'm hopeful it's no more than that."

His team has made significant progress, too. It made McCoist wince to recall the previous visit to Shielfield, when Rangers were unable to cope with the assertiveness and vigour of the home side. They faced the same qualities again on Saturday, and even went behind when Anestis Argyriou failed to deal with a Dylan Easton corner and sent the ball into his own net.

Rather than be gripped by anxiety, though, Rangers were resilient. Within two minutes, Dean Shiels had cleverly earned a penalty by drawing a foul from Dougie Brydon and then converted the spot-kick. Rangers were never wholly dominant but their quality eventually separated the two sides.

Few players, for instance, would have finished Lee Wallace's cross with such a controlled and decisive volley as Andy Little. That goal came just before half-time, and when Sebastien Faure increased Rangers' advantage, it was enough for the visitors to accept that they had secured the victory.

"Always the games are very hard but we are together," said the defender. "Even when you are 22 points on top of the league, it is very important that you win every game for the fans."

Berwick could be enthused by their refusal to be cowed, and the way they kept putting Rangers under pressure. On an uneven surface the home side were always able to trouble their opponents. "The surface isn't the best and you sometimes can't play good football on it but we passed the ball well," said Easton. "But they are a really good side with experience and the gap at the top of the table is a fair reflection."

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