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Rangers 2 Stirling Albion 0: Tea but little sympathy

If Rangers' players needed a reminder of the standards expected, it came at half-time.

Andrew Little celebrates scoring Rangers' second goal 			Photograph: Garry Williamson/SNS
Andrew Little celebrates scoring Rangers' second goal Photograph: Garry Williamson/SNS

After a parade of former players as part of the club's 140th anniversary celebrations, John Greig was asked how he was enjoying his return to the ground after a 14-month self-imposed exile in protest at the way Craig Whyte ran the club. "I'd prefer us to be winning," the former manager and captain said gruffly.

The vast majority of the home fans would have agreed. Rangers sold all of the available tickets, setting another world record attendance for a fourth-tier match, but the mood of congratulation would not have survived a grim display against the only Third Division side to have beaten Rangers this season.

"If there was a disappointment it was in the level of the finishing," said manager Ally McCoist. "It should have been a lot better."

Ibrox was roused into a sense of reverie before kick-off, before Stirling Albion were under siege, as if Rangers' intent was to reduce their opponents to turmoil. There was enough anxiety for Marc McCulloch and Daly McSorley to be booked in the opening eight minutes for crude, heavy fouls on David Templeton.

The second challenge caused McCoist to hare towards his prone player – the winger had been knocked over the touchline – and to exhort the assistant referee to protect him. "I thought the referee made it difficult for himself," said Stirling manager Greig McDonald. "I thought [McCulloch's] was the best tackle I've seen, even though the Rangers player went six feet up in the air."

McCoist, mostly due to his own team, was continually restless. The home side could have been several goals ahead by the time the momentum of their play started to diminish. Lewis MacLeod's shot was blocked, while Kevin Kyle's header was hacked off the line. The pressure was unrelenting, but complacency evident in some of the attempted finishing, MacLeod, for example, lashing over the bar from 12 yards.

Some of Stirling's defending was shaped by panic, and two more players – Ross McGeachie and Jamie Bishop – were booked for knocking over Templeton. The winger was a source of menace, his pace, quick feet and jinking runs causing the visitors to abandon their sense of restraint. He could be deft, too, as a clever pass released Kyle on goal, but his low shot bounced off the upright.

The intensity could not be maintained, even though the crowd were animated by the half-time sight of Richard Gough, Willie Henderson, Harold Davis, Andy Goram and Michael Mols et al. Stirling were still obliged to be wary, though, and the moment they became distracted the home side took advantage. Dean Shiels released Barrie McKay down the right, and Templeton turned his cross high into the roof of the net.

Rangers might have expected then to browbeat their opponents, but Stirling were briefly encouraged, and a spell of pressure ended with substitute Josh Flood's shot striking a post. This only re-engaged the home side, though, and they took advantage of McSorley being dismissed for a second booking.

Andrew Little added a second goal after McKay broke upfield on a counter-attack and crossed for the striker, who finished calmly.

It was a day, though, for Rangers' past to feature. "[Greig] came in and had a cup of tea during the pre-match warm-up," McCoist said. "We all got a boost when he walked through the door and complained about the standard of the tea."

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