Kilmarnock .. 0

Rangers ........... 5

RANGERS restored their ample lead at the top of the Premier League with a Sunday spectacular that left weary Kilmarnock trudging into the Rugby Park dressing room understandably dejected.

The victory that proved so comfortable in the end was Rangers' third over the Ayrshire side this season, but by far the most comprehensive. There was no real sign of such a demolition of the home team, during which Rod Wallace ended up the hat-trick hero, when the Ibrox side went in a goal ahead, scored by Neil McCann, at half-time. For a spell in the second half, too, Rangers were not able to push home their superiority with goals and Killie began to show some enterprise of their own.

However, the avalanche began with Wallace's first goal 15 minutes from the end, after which the ball hit the net with a regularity that was alarming for the normally sound Kilmarnock defence. In fact there were three goals in the last six minutes.

Now Rangers have 10 games to play and are 10 points ahead of Celtic, their only challengers now. The Ibrox team would need to conjure up a major collapse to lose what they have . . . and after last night's show that seems a remote possibility.

The best laid plans can go awry if a piece of classy play knocks them on the head, as the bard from just up the road might have put it after Rangers' stunning opening goal disrupted

Kilmarnock's strategy.

Even before that, recalled French internationalist Stephane Guivarc'h had a chance to put Rangers ahead when he shot past the post, but the goal in five

minutes was special enough to let the away fans dismiss that disappointment.

Barry Ferguson sent Andrei Kanchelskis clear down the right, with the Kilmarnock defence claiming offside. It looked fair enough from our perch in the stand, and when the Ukrainian winger sent over a wicked low cross McCann, racing in, met it squarely to put the ball into the back of the net.

Two of the three players involved could have combined to make it two shortly afterwards when, this time, Kanchelskis fed Ferguson, who had time to pick his place in the net but finished with a poor effort that went over the bar.

The Russian internationalist was having an enjoyable time on the right and when he was sent away in another run he cut inside and left a trio of defenders trying to halt him in vain before leaving the ball for Guivarc'h to shoot, but the Frenchman was disappointed with his attempt which went past the post.

Kilmarnock had scarcely been seen as a serious attacking force but gradually they began to gain some confidence and yet after one raid were nearly caught out by a break from the Ibrox side. In fact McCann, who had done so well at the goal, was not so clever this time when he touched the ball too far ahead and allowed Mark Reilly to knock the ball away for a corner.

Next up was Wallace, who might have done better when he met a McCann cross in the air but headed past the near post.

However that was nothing

compared to the chance missed by Tony Vidmar, who smashed the ball too high from only a few yards in front of Gordon Marshall.

As half-time approached it was obvious that Kilmarnock had not fully recovered from that fifth-minute setback but they went in at the interval probably a little relieved that they were not further behind.

Kanchelskis was back in the same routine early in the second half, laying on a pass for Ferguson to try a shot that went just outside the post. It was Andrei again a couple of minutes later with a

pulsating run inside and a superb left foot shot that Marshall had to tip over the bar.

Ray Montgomerie saved a dangerous situation for his side when he stretched out a leg and stole the ball from Guivarc'h, otherwise a goal was odds on.

Martin Baker, who will miss Killie's next three games on

suspension, was lucky to escape a booking when, perhaps out of understandable frustration, he brought down Kanchelskis, who was heading down the wing once more.

Killie did manage a break away after Gary Holt dispossessed Giovanni van Bronckhorst - although Rangers did claim that their man was fouled - but

Durrant's final pass was intercepted by Vidmar.

However, the former Rangers player did a lot better soon after, and in fact Kilmarnock might have equalised as a consequence. He sent a neat pass out to Alex Burke and when he pushed the ball into the middle there was Ally McCoist waiting to shoot from 12 yards. Stefan Klos, though, got down to make a fine save to defy the striker.

That encouraged Kilmarnock, none the less, and they were back for more when Durrant tried a rather ambitious effort from a distance which caused no problems for Klos.

Then a Holt back-header to the far post just evaded the outstretched leg of Paul Wright.

Perhaps a little concerned at the way things were going, Dick Advocaat made a change, replacing Jorg Albertz with Colin Hendry, who made his first appearance since January 30.

However, it was the familiar one-two up front, McCann and Kanchelskis, who combined again and nearly snatched a

second goal, the Ukrainian's final effort hitting the side net. That was also where a header from Wallace ended up just before

Killie replaced Steve Hamilton with Ally Mitchell.

As luck would have it, Mitchell was the man who was dispossessed by McCann for the former Hearts man to lay on the pass that

produced the second goal, scored 15 minutes from time by Wallace. There was a rush of substitutions, Rangers put on Barry Nicholson for Sergio Porrini and then a little later Jonatan Johansson for

Guivarc'h and Kilmarnock put on Mark Roberts for McCoist.

It was the Rangers change that came up trumps, however, when Johansson took a ball just on the halfway line from van Bronckhorst and ran all the way to goal to shoot the third for his team.

There was yet more to come when Wallace headed in No.4 with three minutes left, after a cross from Van Bronckhorst.

The victory that had now become a rout was completed in the last minute when Wallace

finished his hat trick. His first effort came off the arm of a defender but before anyone could utter ''penalty'' he had knocked the rebound into the net.