RANGERS got their bid for the League One crown off to a winning start as they saw off Brechin City with a 4-1 win at Ibrox.
Chris Hegarty gave the hosts a second-minute lead and although it took them time to add to it, they eventually forged further ahead through Nicky Law.
But after a dominant first period, Gers faded badly in the second and Steven Jackson reduced the deficit with an acrobatic effort.
Ian Black scored after his penalty had been saved nine minutes from time to eventually give Gers breathing space again.
And Dean Shiels capped his return from injury with a lovely fourth to give Ally McCoist’s men the margin of victory their performance before the break probably merited.
That puts the 54-times Scottish champions at the top of the table ahead of the mid-afternoon matches and the manager will be content enough with the final outcome.
McCoist made three changes to his side from the one which lost 2-1 to Forfar in the League Cup seven days and they were all expected.
Law and Jon Daly returned to the fold as the two players the manager was permitted to field as trialists, while Emilson Cribari also came back in central defence.
He replaced suspended captain Lee McCulloch, while David Templeton sat out the contest with a hamstring strain and Andy Mitchell was omitted from the pool.
With a near-full house looking on, the match was preceded by the traditional flag unfurling ceremony as the Third Division title win from last season was celebrated once again.
And it was a special moment for the thronging crowd as club legend Sandy Jardine returned to the club nine months after being diagnosed with cancer to do the honours.
In many ways, a healthy-looking Jardine embodies the resurgence Rangers themselves are enjoying on the park.
At his lowest ebb not so long ago, the 64-year-old is fighting back strongly in his recovery and it was terrific to see him taking the turf he graced as a player in the 1970s and 80s.
Fuelled by emotion as much as anything, Gers made a flying start to the game and took the lead with just 64 seconds gone.
Their scorer was unlikely as Hegarty made himself the club’s top league scorer for what you’d expect will be the only time in his career.
The Northern Ireland under-21 international was well placed to tap home after a Law drive from a tight angle after a quick corner was deflected into his path.
Having started on the right foot, it seemed Gers were intent on increasing their lead as quickly as possible.
And in an upbeat first few minutes, Law and Daly both went close along with Ian Black, whose long-range shot was unexpected and a couple of yards too high.
Andy Little then flashed a header past the far post after a decent cross from the left by stand-in skipper Lee Wallace.
And Daly somehow did the same thing moments later when Little supplied a sumptuous hanging cross for him from the other side.
Remarkably, Hegarty nearly grabbed a second when Black’s rasping drive was well kept out by keeper Graeme Smith but by the time he connected he had been flagged offside.
Macleod hit the target when he came forward but he was denied as Smith got down to smother at the end of a run upfield which kept on going.
Just when it seemed Rangers’ rhythm might be dropping, they produced their best move of the match which deserved a second goal.
Hegarty cut inside and passed to Law, who flighted across to Macleod and he knocked back down into Wallace’s path.
The left-back then took one touched to step away from a defender before shooting low with his second and Smith did everything right as he charged out to block.
Brechin were hanging on by the skin of their teeth and how the hosts didn’t make it 2-0 on the half-hour mark is a mystery.
Again Wallace’s contribution was significant and his deep cross found Daly, whose back-post header was only just kept out.
That left Robbie Crawford with an open goal to poke into an open goal but his finish was far too tame and it was stopped on the line before a grateful Smith threw himself on top of it.
Indeed, that summed up a first half in which the Light Blues totally dominated but still had just that Hegarty counter to show for their efforts.
That was until six minutes before the break when they finally got their reward for such heavy pressure through Law.
He collected in midfield and things opened up for the Englishman, who rounded Gerry McLaughlan before rattling in his third goal of the season from 25 yards.
McCoist was forced into a change at half-time as Cribari’s groin came back to haunt him and Kyle McAusland was introduced as a replacement.
It was still one-way traffic though and it took the bar to stop a defensive header ending up in the away net for a third time.
That appeared only to be delaying the inevitable as Macleod had a shot charged down and Daly nearly met Law’s teasing inswinger.
But the next goal was to come Brechin’s way as they pulled one back during their best spell of the game.
It was a cracking strike too, with Jackson’s scissor kick from a corner slipping in just under the upright and in off the post.
There was suddenly an uneasy atmosphere at Ibrox and a third goal was required to stop nerves kicking in.
Wallace tried to get it and went close after a neat one-two with Black but Smith saved again and the rebound cannoned off the defender for a goal kick.
As time wore on, frustration set in and McCoist’s men became more disjointed with Brechin growing in confidence all the time.
They did get their goal which set up victory though nine minutes from the end and it was a major turning point.
Little was played in on goal with a long ball down the right channel and Paul McLean, already booked in the first half, made a clumsy challenge and brought him down.
A penalty was given and the stopper was shown a straight red card, with Black taking responsibility for the kick from 12 yards.
His attempt was poor as Smith guessed correctly and saved but he couldn’t hold the rebound and Black poked that in.
Shiels then made sure of the success with a lovely curling effort which caught Smith out to make it 4-1 four minutes from the end.
RANGERS: Gallacher; Hegarty, Faure, Cribari (McAusland 46), Wallace; Little, Black, Law, Macleod; Crawford (Shiels 70); Daly.
SUBS NOT USED: A Smith, Gasparotto, McKay, Aird, Murdoch.
SCORERS: Hegarty 2, Law 40, Black 81, Shiels 86.
BRECHIN CITY: Smith, McLean, Brown (Moyes , S Jackson, McLauchlan, Molloy (Cameron 62), Trouten, Anderson, Donnelly (A Jackson 53), Barr, Carcary.
SUBS NOT USED: Nelson, Tobin.
SCORERS: S Jackson 65.
BOOKINGS: McLean, Trouten, Anderson, Smith.
SENT OFF: McLean.
REFEREE: George Salmond.
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