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Mohsni staves off boos with a couple of goals, but all eyes are on Wallace

AND then there were two.

Bilel Mohsni leaps high above the Ayr United defence to plant a header from Fraser Aird's corner past David Hutton just after half-time. Picture: SNS
Bilel Mohsni leaps high above the Ayr United defence to plant a header from Fraser Aird's corner past David Hutton just after half-time. Picture: SNS

Rangers edged closer to an unbeaten SPFL League 1 campaign at Ibrox last night but, not for the first time in what could prove to be an historic season, the result was one of few reasons to be cheerful for manager Ally McCoist.

Ayr United became the latest team to succumb to Rangers' on their relentless charge towards the Champion­ship but they are not the first to feel it was an opportunity missed as they failed to take advantage of a lacklustre performance.

A Bilel Mohsni double, either side of an Alan Forrest strike that had pulled Ayr level, was enough to extend Rangers' unbeaten run, with games at home to Stranraer and away at Dunfermline the only two matches the champions now have to negotiate.

By the time the League 1 flag is unfurled at Ibrox on Saturday, McCoist and supporters will have a clearer idea of what the future holds for the club, with chief executive Graham Wallace to issue an update on his business review on Friday.

The eagerly anticipated document, which has taken 120 days to complete and was delivered to the board this week, will shape where Rangers are heading on and off the field, not just this summer but for as long as the current incumbents remain in place at the top of the marble staircase.

The main questions for McCoist will concern his budget and what money, if any, he will be given to strengthen this group of players as he bids to make it three successive promotions by claiming the Cham­pionship crown next season.

"I haven't [had a discussion with Graham], not yet," McCoist said. "I don't think there is any doubt that I will be seeing him before the end of the week. I will see him tonight, I will have a quick cup of tea with him after the game. But we will plan [a meeting] for [Wednesday] or Thursday."

While Rangers will soon be able to put their feet up and reflect on a job well done, the season is likely to go on for a couple of extra weeks for Mark Roberts, the Ayr manager, and his players. His side currently occupy the final play-off place in the third tier as they bid to join Rangers in the Championship next season, with last night's Ibrox tie their game in hand over main promotion rivals Stenhousemuir.

Anything taken from their trip to Glasgow would have been seen as a bonus but the visitors were determined to make the most of the chance to open up a four-point advantage to Scott Booth's side in the standings. They had the first and last chances of a goalless first half and should have headed for the dressing room with the lead.

Just seven minutes in, Michael Moffat's direct run set up strike partner Craig Malcolm, who was unlucky to see his curling effort from the edge of the box go narrowly wide of Cammy Bell's left-hand post.

When Moffat had another dart at the Rangers defence just before the interval, he chose to shoot himself, but could not hit the target from the edge of the area.

In between those two efforts from United, Rangers saw plenty of the ball but had little cutting edge to their play. A couple of crosses and knock-downs presented chances to Jon Daly and Lee McCulloch, both of which were scooped high over the bar, while Arnold Peralta was not quick enough to finish when the ball fell to him inside the area.

There was a disgruntled edge to the voices around the Ibrox stands but the groans turned to cheers just after the restart as the deadlock was finally broken, Mohsni meeting Fraser Aird's corner to give McCoist's side a 53rd minute lead.

The points should have been secured shortly afterwards when Ian Black raced on to the end of Stevie Smith's pass down the left wing but the midfielder's tame effort was well smothered by goalkeeper David Hutton. It would come back to haunt Rangers with just over 20 minutes remaining and, not for the first time this term, they were masters of their own downfall.

Richard Foster's poor pass and a heavy touch from Peralta allowed Scott McLaughlin to nick in and feed Forrest, who finished well into the far corner.

No matter how below par Rangers have been this season, McCoist's side have, more often than not, found a way to win. That knack would pay dividends once again last night and it was Mohsni who would stave off the chorus of boos that would surely have greeted the champions come the end of an uninspiring performance.

Nicky Clark saw his header saved by Hutton but the defender was in the right place at the right time to prod home to record league win No.32 as Ayr were left with nothing for their considerable efforts.

"If you can't take confidence from that kind of performance, there is something wrong," Roberts said. "The guys played their hearts out. There wasn't much between the teams I didn't think."

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