Ally McCoist has had to bide his time to field all of the players he brought to Rangers over the summer. Now the year-long SFA signing embargo has expired, though, the early indications are that the wait it was worth it.
Seven of his nine new acquisitions were in the starting line-up in the SPFL League One game against Arbroath; Cammy Bell, Nicky Clark, Jon Daly, Nicky Law, Belil Mohsni, Arnold Peralta and Stevie Smith all took to the field. The others, Ricky Foster and Steve Simonsen - the experienced English goalkeeper who signed a deal until the end of the season on Friday - were on the bench. Even then, the Glasgow club needed to dig deep to overcome doughty opponents who played superbly and snatched a deserved lead. In the end, however, they triumphed comfortably. Rangers have now won all five of their league games and, with Dunfermline and Stenhousemuir both drawing, are five points clear top the division, having scored 23 goals and conceded just two.
The encouraging displays of Mohsni, who scored on his competitive debut, Peralta and Smith strongly suggested that Rangers will be able to maintain the fine form they have shown so far shown in their league outings. Yet the visitors were arguably the better side in the opening 45 minutes yesterday. Certainly, they created the better scoring chances, with Lee Irwin going agonisingly close to doing so on two occasions.
Rangers at that stage had large amounts of possession without doing a great deal with it. Clark and Daly played up front together and could find no way through a resolute rearguard. It was no real surprise, in fact, when Paul Sheerin's team went ahead at the start of the second half. Irwin laid the ball off for Alan Cook who angled a deft chip over Bell and into the net. It provoked a hostile response from the home crowd, but it was no more than Arbroath's play deserved.
McCoist needed to make changes and he did so. He brought off the ineffectual Clark and replaced him with David Templeton, with the susbstitute taking up position on the left wing and Andy Little moving up front. The change had an immediate impact on the game as Rangers got back on level terms just a minute later. Law tried his luck from distance and the ball was held up in a cluster of bodies, eventually falling to Mohsni who had the simplest of tasks prodding home.
Shortly afterwards came the goal that gave the home team the lead and it was also straightforward. Peralta curled a corner to the edge of the Arbroath six-yard box and Lee McCulloch rose unchallenged to head beyond Scott Morrison. The Rangers captain then made sure of victory in 76 minutes with a far more spectacular effort. Peralta hit a defensive wall with his free-kick and the ball broke to McCulloch 25 yards out. His powerful right foot shot thundered into the top corner and gave Morrison no chance whatsoever.
Little added the fourth from an acute angle with two minutes remaining and McCulloch nodded home his third in injury-time. It was his second hat-trick in as many games, with five of his six goals scored with his head.
In a curious sideshow prior to the match, Ian Black was seen sitting in the home dugout. However, having been handed a 10-game ban - seven of which were suspended - for breaching SFA gambling rules, he was not stripped for action. The midfielder's latest indiscretions have divided opinion among supporters, with one fans' group issuing a statement calling for him to be sacked. Yet there was obvious no reaction to his presence inside the stadium.