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Rangers 2 East Fife 0: Shiels back with bang

The win was comfortable enough for Rangers, even if it didn't reflect some of the awkward moments that East Fife imposed on their hosts.

Dean Shiels' second goal sealed his man-of-the-match display after several months on the Ibrox sidelines Photograph: SNS
Dean Shiels' second goal sealed his man-of-the-match display after several months on the Ibrox sidelines Photograph: SNS

Ibrox was hardly enthralled by the play, but there were some significant aspects, not least the re-emergence of Dean Shiels with a double on his return to the starting line-up.

The attacker has been linked with a move to Hibernian, but this was a reminder that he could yet establish himself as an influential figure at Rangers.

It was telling, too, that manager Ally McCoist named only six substitutes. A youth player might have been called into the squad to take up the last place on the bench, but the point was that with injuries and suspensions it is still short on depth.

At a time when all of Rangers' costs are under review by chief executive Graham Wallace, and the football wage bill will inevitably need to be cut, so every decision seems loaded at the moment.

Despite reported interest from Easter Road, Shiels, has told McCoist he would like to remain at Ibrox. This was his first start since August, having come back from a medial ligament injury suffered last season only to break down again. He returned to full training two months ago, but this was a timely return to the first team.

"He's been concerned about not starting, but he's been receptive to the fact that the team's been winning and so it's not been easy to make changes," McCoist said. "Apart from the quality of his finishes, he played well generally. He's a very determined boy, he made it clear he thinks that he should be in the team, and if plays like that he'll get his opportunity."

East Fife immediately revealed their vulnerability. Centre-back Joe Mbu passed the ball straight to Andy Little, but the striker pulled his shot wide.

The poor decision-making was indicative of the anxiety that inhibited the visitors, and they were behind after only five minutes. Little had seen another effort cleared off the line by Craig Johnstone, but East Fife could not hold out. From the resulting corner kick, Shiels bundled a volley through a crowd and into the net.

Rangers ought to have then swept their opponents aside. There was some incisiveness to their play, as Shiels had another effort blocked, Bilel Mohsni headed over from close range, and Jon Daly sliced a shot wide, but it was sporadic. McCoist's men had plenty of possession, but not enough dynamism, and that enthused their opponents.

Liam Buchanan shot wide from a good position, then Gary Fisher was sent through on goal by Blair Henderson, but Cammy Bell rushed out to block. There was restlessness amongst the home crowd, although it was soothed after 64 minutes when Shiels showed composure and technique to clip the ball high into the net after Little had cushioned a cross down into his path.

East Fife manager Gary Naysmith said: "The first three passes we tried to play out from the back we gave to Rangers and that gave them the initiative right from the start.

"But we grew into the game and in the second half we had good chances to score. It would have been an interesting game if we'd made it level."

The result turned out to be routine, although Rangers' performance was muted. Neither seemed important compared to the emotions shown in the minute's silence before kick-off for Ian Redford and the ovation for Fernando Ricksen at half-time, with the latter leaving the field in tears.

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