Rangers 3-1 East Stirlingshire

By Keir MurrayBBC Sport Scotland
Highlights - Rangers 3-1 East Stirlingshire

Relief was the dominant feeling around Ibrox after Rangers' Third Division win over John Coughlin's hard-working East Stirlingshire.

Rangers had spurned a number of chances in the first half when Andy Stirling began and finished a slick move to put the Shire ahead on 40 minutes.

The home side became more clinical, Andy Little pouncing to level and Lee McCulloch tapping home a second.

As Rangers turned the screw, Little fired in a third.

The sun was shining at Ibrox as kick-off neared.

And with the mood surrounding the club leavened by following Lord Nimmo Smith's independent commission into the club's method of paying players from 2000-2011, the fans were buoyant.

Club legend Sandy Jardine's address to the supporters after a period of serious illness bolstered the positive feeling in the home crowd.

Rangers, of course, had been found guilty of administrative malpractice but cleared of fielding ineligible players or having sought an unfair advantage.

East Stirling boss John Coughlin
John Coughlin's side passed the ball well at Ibrox before running out of steam

After 15 minutes, good work from David Templeton on the right-hand side created an opportunity for the home side, but Little missed what would be the first of a host of early chances, heading over from close range.

East Stirlingshire almost nicked the lead when Jamie Glasgow nipped in behind Emilson Cribari and almost poked the ball past goalkeeper Neil Alexander.

After a slow opening 20 minutes, Rangers began to step up the pace. Ian Black spotted Little had beat the offside trap, but the striker headed wide at the far post.

Then skipper McCulloch, back from an ankle injury that has kept him out since early January, forced Grant Hay into his first meaningful save of the game, cutting inside and firing a rocket straight at the keeper.

In the 27th minute Rangers' best move of the game carved open the visitors. Templeton fed Kyle Hutton who had skipped ahead of his marker down the left. He cut the ball back for Little but he drove his shot wide.

The Shire took the lead with their first attempt on target, five minutes from the break.

Stirling accelerated infield from the left, played a one-two on the edge of the box and rushed on to side-foot the ball past the helpless Alexander for a memorable goal.

Rangers were smarting and almost had an immediate reply.

McCulloch arrowed a low free-kick through the black-and-white hooped wall, Hay made an excellent parry to his left and young defender Chris Hegarty somehow knocked the ball over the bar from six yards.

When Brian Colvin blew for half-time the booing that rang round the stadium could hardly have been in greater contrast to the cacophany of cheers 45 minutes earlier.

Rangers drew level when Little followed up on Anestis Argyriou's miss-hit shot from the right to smash the ball home from eight yards.

That raised a massive cheer from the vast majority of the hefty 44,534 fans inside the ground, but their embarrassment would not diminish unless they could earn a convincing win.

Templeton looked the player most likely to create excitement and he set up Rangers' second in 62 minutes, skilfully turning his marker inside out before passing to McCulloch, who beat a weak offside trap to round Hay and side-foot home.

A minute later, the points were made safe as Little was afforded far too much time and space to set up a low shot that squirmed under Hay.

Stirling connected with Max Wright's low cross from the left wing to snap a shot from 12 yards then Templeton pounced on a loose ball following a save by Hay but could only hit the post.

The result means Rangers are 23 points clear in Division Three but the Shire can be proud of their efforts before they so visibly tired in the second half.

Rangers: Alexander, Argyriou, Hegarty, Emilson Cribari, Wallace, Naismith (McKay 64), Black, Hutton, Templeton (Aird 90), Little, McCulloch (Hemmings 87). Subs Not Used: Gallagher, Faure.

Goals: Little 51, McCulloch 62, Little 63.

East Stirlingshire: Hay, Shepherd (Gillespie 68), Miller, Buchanan, Maxwell, Turner, Greenhill, Hunter, Stirling, Quinn (Zufle 76), Glasgow (Wright 64). Subs Not Used: Gordon, Benton.

Booked: Miller, Gillespie, Buchanan.

Goals: Stirling 40.

Attendance: 44,534

Referee: Brian Colvin

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