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Rangers 2 East Fife 0: Expectation of Ibrox cuts remains as Shiels' display is right on the money

After hurting his ankle during the warm-up, Cammy Bell patched himself up and took to the field against East Fife determined that an injury would not affect him.

Deans Shiels has been linked with a move to Hibs but scored twice at Ibrox on a day when Fernando Ricksen, below, was warmly welcomed back at half-time by supporters. Pictures: SNS & PA
Deans Shiels has been linked with a move to Hibs but scored twice at Ibrox on a day when Fernando Ricksen, below, was warmly welcomed back at half-time by supporters. Pictures: SNS & PA

He put it out of his mind to focus on the game, but then that has been a common approach at Rangers in recent years. Boardroom intrigue has now been replaced by talk of a business review and impending cuts. "We don't know what's happening," Bell said. "We just concentrate on playing."

There is always a backdrop to Rangers matches. For now, it is the club's finances, and chief executive Graham Wallace stressed in his programme notes that the review was not just about identifying costs to cut but also areas of the business which require investment. At some point, Rangers themselves will also need to seek fresh funding but, in the meantime, there is an expectation that the football wage bill will need to be reduced.

Rangers named only six substitutes for this game, three of whom were teenagers. None the less, there is slack in the squad, since Emilson Cribari has barely contributed this season and, while Steve Simonsen is an experienced back-up goalkeeper, Scott Gallacher has returned from his loan spell at Airdrieonians. Simonsen was on the verge of making his debut against East Fife, after Bell turned his ankle during the warm-up but, after some treatment, Bell chose to play with the swollen ankle strapped.

He was called upon to make some important saves as Rangers laboured to capitalise on the early lead that came from Dean Shiels' volley in the fifth minute. It took another technically adept and composed finish in the second half from the same player for the home side to be comfortable.

Shiels has been peripheral this season, as he returned to full fitness from a medial ligament injury, and has been linked with a move to Hibernian. This was a reminder, though, that when on form and match fit, he offers ability - movement, delicate touches and creative instincts - in the final third that no other Rangers player possesses.

"He can have a big part to play here," Bell said of his team-mate. "There have been reports recently linking him with a move away from Rangers but I don't think that has ever been the case from his point of view. He has great ability. He came in short at times and is one of those players who is difficult to pick up between defence and midfield.

"We haven't heard anything about any cuts inside the playing squad so we just carry on with business as usual. The manager doesn't want players to leave and it's the same for us. Dean is a Rangers fan. He loves the place and I really can't see him leaving. He's a very good player and hopefully we can keep hold of him."

Bell was satisfied with his own display, but injury alone is not the only issue that might affect his place in the team. His partner is due to give birth to their first baby on Tuesday, but any delay could prevent Bell from playing in Rangers' next game, against Forfar Athletic in seven days. "Hopefully it won't be too late - and not on the day of the Forfar game," Bell said. "That's quite far away and I don't want to miss it. But it could be an exciting week for me."

East Fife looked as though they might be overwhelmed in the opening exchanges, but then found the means to dig in. They survived some scares in the first half, then inflicted two of their own after the break, with Liam Buchanan shooting wide from close range and Gary Fisher drawing a good block from Bell.

It was a dogged performance, enough to frustrate Rangers and the home crowd. The thoughts of most supporters, though, would still have been distracted by the emotions of a day when a minute's silence was held for the former Rangers player, Ian Redford, who died on Friday, before the introduction at half-time of Fernando Ricksen, who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease and broke down in tears as he received an enduring ovation.

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