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Rangers 2 Dunfermline 0: Champions march to a new horizon

RANGERS underlined their firm intention to go through SPFL League One campaign unbeaten, despite having already clinched both the title and promotion, with this hard-fought triumph.

Calum Gallagher celebrates his goal at Ibrox   Photograph: SNS
Calum Gallagher celebrates his goal at Ibrox Photograph: SNS

It was not the most polished performance by Ally McCoist's side in the last eight months, but, in the circumstances, that was understandable.

McCoist made a host of changes to the side that had finally sewn up the league with a 3-0 win over Airdrie on Wednesday night. Sebastien Faure, Arnold Peralta, Nicky Clark, Robbie Crawford and Stevie Smith all started. Lee Wallace, Dean Shiels and Jon Daly all found themselves on the replacements' bench at kick-off. There was, meanwhile, no place in the squad at all for Nicky Law.

The fact that Rangers have a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay with Albion Rovers - who held them to a 1-1 draw at Ibrox last Sunday - at New Douglas Park tomorrow night was partially responsible for those extensive alterations.

Andy Little and David Templeton were also unavailable after injuries in midweek which look set to rule them both out of action for several weeks. The home team, then, had a decidedly unfamiliar feel about it.

Lee McCulloch, who netted a hat-trick three days earlier, was moved from his usual berth at centre-half to striker. Elsewhere, Peralta formed a new-look central midfield partnership with Ian Black while Faure linked up with Bilel Mohsni in the heart of the back line.

Rangers ultimately did enough to record another win - their 27th in 29 matches - over their nearest rivals, with goals from Smith and debutant Calum Gallagher. As tradition dictates, Dunfermline formed a guard of honour for the new champions before the game got under way and applauded them onto the field.

The visitors' hopes of causing an upset suffered a setback early on when goalkeeper Ryan Scully limped off injured. He was replaced by namesake Ryan Goodfellow.

Dunfermline nearly opened the scoring in the ninth minute, however, after Mohsni had conceded a free-kick needlessly with a foul on Alex Whittle on the right flank.

Danny Grainger whipped a penetrating cross in to the edge of the Rangers six-yard box and Lawrence Shankland rose to head it just over.

Peralta, the Honduran international who has failed to convince on the right of midfield, relished being given a start in his favoured position, snapping at the heels of opposing players who won possession near him and winning the ball back with a succession of well-timed tackles.

The 24-year-old, who will play in the World Cup finals in Brazil this summer is rumoured to be keen to move on due to his lack of first team football. On the evidence of this outing, McCoist would be advised to persuade him to stay in Glasgow.

The South American won the free-kick Rangers scored from just before half-time when he was brought down by Andy Geggan around 25 yards from the Dunfermline. Left-back Smith stepped up and curled an exquisite shot beyond the clutches of Goodfellow and into the top-right corner for only the second goal of his professional career.

Emilson Cribari took over from Mohsni at the start of the second half, with Kyle Hutton on for McCulloch midway through the half and Gallagher replacing Smith late on.

Referee Kevin Clancy produced a fussy display, with six yellow cards in a first half in which there was hardly a single bad challenge. It was inevitable somebody would be ordered off and that happened in the 79th minute when Grainger received a second yellow after felling Gallagher.

Hutton has been out since breaking a leg in an under-20 game against Partick Thistle in November and was given a warm reception when he came on. The same could not be said of the Rangers directors as fans once again displayed their displeasure at how their beloved club is being run with a blue card protest in the 18th and 72nd minutes.

But Gallagher ended the afternoon on a high note for the home team in injury time when he netted on what was his first-ever appearance for Rangers.

Rangers: Bell, Foster, Mohsni (Cribari, 46), Aird, Faure, McCulloch (Hutton, 59), Peralta, Black, Clark, Crawford, Smith (Gallagher, 74). Subs not used: Simonsen, Wallace, Shiels, Daly. Booked: Mohsni (8 mins), Foster (27 mins), McCulloch (45 mins).

Dunfermline Athletic: Scully (Goodfellow, 6), Millen, Grainger, Page, Morris, Geggan, El Balhtaoui (Smith, 73), Husband, Shankland, Forbes, Whittle (Byrne, 28). Subs not used: Thomson, Falkingham, Martin, Williamson. Booked: Granger (19 mins, 79 mins), Whittle (25 mins), Forbes (43 mins). Sent off: Grainger (79 mins).

Referee: Kevin Clancy.

Attendance: 44,110.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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