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Saturday, 03 August 2013 17:30

Forfar Athletic 2-1 Rangers

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RANGERS fell out of the League Cup at the first hurdle as Gavin Swankie’s double gave Forfar a 2-1 extra-time win at Station Park.

The Loons went ahead early in the game but the patient Light Blues finally restored parity nine minutes from the end of the regulation 90.

They then paid the price for a number of missed chances as Dick Campbell’s team absorbed pressure then edged ahead once again through Swankie.

And this time there was no way back for Ally McCoist’s team, which looked shattered at the end of a difficult tie.

With all eight of his new signings ineligible to play, McCoist was forced into making at least two changes to the side which beat Albion Rovers last week.

But as Nicky Law and Jon Daly dropped out of the first XI, he also moved Kyle McAusland to the bench and fielded Chris Hegarty as his replacement.

David Templeton and Mitchell featured too for the visitors, who were wearing black armbands after Colin McAdam passed away this week, in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

The game swung from end to end in the opening moments and both sides had half chances to take the lead.

But it was a bit of opportunism which allowed Forfar to move in front with just eight minutes on the clock.

Lee McCulloch failed to clear with a header and that presented space for Swankie to move towards goal.

He lifted the ball over the advancing Scott Gallacher and with a deft finish he put the ball into the back of the net.

Gers almost hit back immediately when a threaded pass found Andy Little in the six-yard box but Darren Hill spread himself well to block on the line.

But they were lucky not to fall two behind midway through the first period when Chris Templeman headed Swankie’s cross just past the post.

As much as anything, Rangers’ biggest problem in the first period was a swirling wind which made play difficult when they came forward.

Too often passes held up in the air when they came upfield and even when they did keep the ball down, the chances of getting any power behind shots were lessened.

At first it seemed Gers might have a chance to level when Templeton was brought down and it seemed referee Calum Murray had pointed for a penalty.

But the foul took place just outside the area and McCulloch’s drive from the resulting free kick was blocked by the wall.

Conditions were remaining difficult and combined with a failure to find any rhythm, frustration was setting into the away ranks.

McCulloch had one header held by Hill while Little put another wide when the ball came in just too high for him to get the right sort of connection on it.

Although the Light Blues had more possession before the break, they were disappointing and boss McCoist hoped having the wind behind them after the restart would help them improve.

He went into the second half making a change, with Aird replacing Mitchell as the Ibrox team tried to get back into the contest.

Straight away, Templeton tried to find his range with a low 20-yard attempt that beat Hill but went past the post.

Hill also had to react sharply to deny McCulloch when he challenged for Aird’s corner, something he was comically booked for.

The keeper was at his very best to deny Robbie Crawford after an excellent cross from Hegarty and from the following corner, Little somehow fired over the bar from close range.

Rangers were piling on pressure and another McCulloch free kick made it through the wall but was smothered by Hill.

Another set piece from Templeton also got as far as the keeper but a nick off a home player took the sting out of his attempt and it was an easy take.

Seconds later, the former Hearts winger got far more behind a rising drive but Hill was equal to it again and held really well.

A little over 10 minutes remained and it was shaping up to be one of those days when nothing would go right – but then, suddenly, they were found a way back into the game.

Templeton did well to hold off his man and win a corner which he took himself and swung into the mix.

Little smacked a header off the bar and Aird, who had made a good impact since coming on, stooped low to nod in the rebound.

Out of nowhere, Rangers were in the ascendancy and there was still time to get a dramatic winner.

But McCulloch’s cross flashed in front of everyone and away, Hill grabbed another centre ahead of Little and Omar Kader got in Aird’s way two yards out. Extra-time beckoned.

Gers continued on the front foot at the start of the additional half hour and Templeton won then took a corner which McAusland, on for Lewis Macleod, nodded wide.

Hegarty also put a volley over after Crawford teed him up but then the tempo dropped and Forfar began handling the onslaught more comfortably.

It wasn’t until the second half that Rangers threatened again and Little should have got on the end of Lee Wallace’s ball across the face of goal.

Those two combined again seconds later, with the latter’s perseverance setting up Little for a placed shot with his instep which was a yard off target.

Athletic were throwing everything at Gers as they found themselves having to defend deeper and deeper.

But then they very nearly took an unexpected lead again through Gavin Malin’s stinging volley which arced just over and Chris Templeman wasn’t far off either.

The momentum was swinging back in the home side’s direction and with the wind still howling in their favour, they looked more likely to score.

Sure enough, a short spell of pressure concluded with Swankie heading in his second from a Iain Campbell’s cross to put his team ahead again with five minutes to go.

It was a hammer blow for a Rangers team which has pushed and probed without every getting itself in front despite dominating at times.

And as the final whistle blew, it was home fans who were cheering as they celebrated a famous result for their club.

FORFAR: Hill, Baxter, McCulloch, Malcolm (I Campbell 32), Andrews, Fotheringham (R Campbell 46), Kader, McCabe (Dale 91), Templeman, Swankie, Malin.

SUBS: Deasley, Douglas.

SCORER: Swankie 8, 115.

BOOKINGS: McCabe, Kader.

RANGERS: Gallacher; Hegarty, McCulloch, Faure, Wallace; Black; Mitchell (Aird 46), Crawford, Macleod (McAusland 74), Templeton (McKay 99); Little.

SUBS: A Smith, Gasparotto.

SCORER: Aird 81.

BOOKINGS: McCulloch.

REFEREE: Calum Murray.

ATTENDANCE:  4,079.

Copyright 2014. Permission to use quotations from this article online is only granted subject to appropriate source credit and hyperlink to www.rangers.co.uk

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