Match ends, Rangers 1, Inverness CT 0.
Rangers 1-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
A deflected Lewis Macleod strike was enough to ensure Rangers beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle and secured a tie at Falkirk in the third round of the Scottish League Cup.
The game was finely balanced between the Championship side and their Premiership visitors at Ibrox.
Inverness lacked ambition for long spells, but were at their brightest and most purposeful when Rangers scored.
They might have equalised late on, but Ian Black cleared from Ryan Christie.
Ibrox was never going to be a hostile environment for Inverness, with a meagre home crowd of only 15,208 and Rangers entering the game as the team that had to prove itself capable of challenging top-flight opponents.
These remain unsettling times for Rangers fans - some near the directors box held up protest banners before kick-off, at half-time and at full-time - and the consequence was a low-key atmosphere.
That ought to have encouraged Inverness, but they were cowed initially by the intensity of Rangers' pressing, with the visitors forced on to the back foot from the outset.
No chances were created, but the aggressive effort of the opening spell had the effect of restraining John Hughes' side.
The visitors' response was to try to regain their composure with a spell of possession inside their own half. They are accomplished passers of the ball, but there was little room for adventure and it was more than half an hour before they managed a shot on Rangers' goal.
Marley Watkins burrowed his way between Lee Wallace and Bilel Mohsni, but his strike was weak and directed straight at goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.
The home side were barely alarmed, but that was in keeping with a first-half display in which they held a slight upper hand. They attempted to be sharp and slick and although some of the interchanges went slightly awry, they were able to breach the Inverness defence on occasion.
Fraser Aird was prepared to be direct with his running, and his pace and trickery was a problem for Carl Tremarco, the Inverness left-back to deal with. One run and cross created panic in the away defence, but he did not receive the ball often enough to cause an enduring threat.
Rangers were capable without being imposing. Their best opportunity came through a mistake, when a ball out of defence ran straight to Nicky Clark, who immediately sent Kris Boyd through on goal. The striker had defenders haring after him, though, and he rushed his shot, stabbing it straight at goalkeeper Dean Brill.
The instincts are still alert enough, but Boyd's clinical touch has yet to fully return.
Inverness were inhibited, to an extent, by Rangers' approach but also by their own caution. That self-restraint did not survive Hughes' half-time exhortations, and the visitors were brighter and more ambitious after the interval.
By committing more midfielders forward and not sitting so deep in defence, Inverness were able to play with greater purpose.
It was enough to prompt a moment of rashness from Mohsni - although the defender's erratic nature is always evident - and he gifted possession away near his own goal, but Billy McKay could only steer the subsequent cross wide at the far post.
Inverness grew in confidence, but Rangers also retained a threat on the counter-attack, and the home side could also take advantage of a stronger substitutes' bench.
After Jon Daly and David Templeton came on, the latter flashed a shot wide from the corner of the penalty area.
The added impetus brought reward, since another attack ended with Clark's cross bouncing off a defender - prompting claims of handball - and as others paused, Macleod gathered possession and shot on goal, with Josh Meekings inadvertently deflecting the effort past Brill.
Inverness were stung, but Rangers also allowed their positional discipline to collapse. The result was a game that suddenly began flowing from end to end.
It was the home side who proved more incisive, and Templeton almost scored a second with a jinking run and deflected shot, but this time Brill was able to push the ball wide.
Ally McCoist sank to his knees at that moment, in agony at being denied a decisive goal, Moments later, he would have felt the same lurch of emotion, as Black had to nod Christie's header from a corner kick off the goal-line.
Gary Warren was then adjudged to be offside as he headed the ball past Simonsen in the final moments.
Rangers ultimately, though, held on for a victory that lifted their self-esteem.
- 4AirdSubstituted forTempletonat 73'minutes
- 10MacLeodBooked at 44mins
- 8BlackBooked at 26mins
- 15BoydSubstituted forDalyat 72'minutes
- 10DoranBooked at 30mins
- 16TanseyBooked at 42mins
- 19WilliamsSubstituted forChristieat 73'minutes
- Crawford Allan
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Rangers 1, Inverness CT 0.
Foul by Ian Black (Rangers).
Marley Watkins (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Lee Wallace (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Liam Polworth (Inverness CT).
Attempt blocked. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Foul by Lee Wallace (Rangers).
Marley Watkins (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. David Raven (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Bilel Mohsni.
Attempt saved. Ian Black (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Attempt missed. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Foul by Bilel Mohsni (Rangers).
Liam Polworth (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Dean Brill.
Attempt saved. David Templeton (Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Attempt saved. Jon Daly (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Attempt saved. Billy McKay (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Goal! Rangers 1, Inverness CT 0. Lewis MacLeod (Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the bottom right corner.
Attempt missed. David Templeton (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.
Darren McGregor (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Aaron Doran (Inverness CT).
Ian Black (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ryan Christie (Inverness CT).
Substitution, Inverness CT. Ryan Christie replaces Danny Williams.
Substitution, Rangers. David Templeton replaces Fraser Aird.
Substitution, Rangers. Jon Daly replaces Kris Boyd.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Carl Tremarco.
Attempt blocked. Lewis MacLeod (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Ian Black (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Attempt missed. Danny Williams (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Foul by Lewis MacLeod (Rangers).
Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Darren McGregor (Rangers).
Aaron Doran (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Billy McKay (Inverness CT) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the left.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Danny Williams.
Attempt missed. Lewis MacLeod (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high.
Lee Wallace (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.