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Rangers 3 Stranraer 0: Absent friend Sandy Jardine casts sad shadow over Ibrox title party day

IT was, as Ally McCoist admitted afterwards, a "strange day".

Fraser Aird celebrates after opening the scoringPhotograph: Reuters
Fraser Aird celebrates after opening the scoringPhotograph: Reuters

The football understandably seemed like a bit of an afterthought on an occasion which was equal parts title party and funeral procession, but Rangers nonetheless produced patches of good play, some of which were a fitting tribute to Sandy Jardine.

The highlight reel of this match will linger for posterity on the pre-match televised tribute, the banner to absent friends, and the dignified minute's silence for the man who lost his 18-month battle against liver cancer on Thursday night.

Then there will be the guard of honour presented by visitors Stranraer and the moment when Lee McCulloch finally got his hands on the League One trophy, presented by living Rangers legends Bobby Brown and Johnny Hubbard, while SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster attempted, unsuccessfully, to remain incognito in the background.

But this was about the future as well as the past, so it was fitting that during the 90 minutes the Ibrox club should utilise Jardine's old stomping grounds on the flanks with efficiency to score three fine goals via the excellent Fraser Aird, Arnold Peralta's first for the club, and Dean Shiels, to break the 100-point barrier and leave themselves just 90 minutes away - they face Dunfermline at East End Park next week - from going the whole season unbeaten.

Stranraer are one of just two teams to take a point against Rangers all season, drawing 1-1 here back on Boxing Day, but the events of the last few days only served to galvanise Rangers.

With the exception of two short airings of "Sack the Board", supporters appeared to have decided this was no day for organised protests; a pre-planned demonstration was scrapped beforehand while Dave King also declined to offer his response to the club's 120-day business review as a mark of respect.

Instead, football took centre stage again yesterday, and no-one grasped that more than Aird. The continued emergence of the teenager has been one of the small successes of Rangers season and after a couple of early Jon Daly efforts, he showed his burgeoning confidence by sweeping off the left flank to fire in, right footed, at the near post for the opener.

Frank McKeown spurned Stranraer's best chance just before half-time following a Sean Winter flick, before Aird turned the provider by laying one on a plate for his opposite winger Arnold Peralta, the Honduran finishing with an aplomb which made you wonder why he hadn't troubled the scorers in his previous 27 outings.

Aird went close again from distance soon afterwards, with the main worry for Scotland being reports that he is set to accept a maiden call-up for the country of his birth, Canada.

Shiels soon made it three, getting his head on the end of a Stevie Smith cross, then keeping his wits about him to convert while sitting in the six-yard box.

There was still time before the final whistle sounded for Kyle Hutton to hit the junction of post and bar with a deflected shot and a late bow for Emilson Cribari, presumably to mark his final appearance for the club.

It was a strange day all right, at the end of a strange season. What condition Rangers will be in by the time they start the next one here remains anyone's guess.

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