TWO goals in a minute were enough to give Rangers victory in their Ramsdens Cup second round clash with Berwick as they progressed to a last-eight meeting with Queen of the South.
After the high of thrashing Airdrieonians 6-0 with such conviction last week, the Light Blues were far too flat for the best part of an hour.
But Barrie McKay’s introduction as a substitute saw him grab the opener and Andy Little followed up with a quickfire second to ensure progression.
This certainly wasn’t the polished performance Ally McCoist will have been wanting from his players.
Nevertheless, they were still deserved winners despite the game dragging for as long as it did and they merit their place in the quarter-finals.
Now they’ll look ahead to a game at that stage with trophy holders Queens, the team that knocked them out there last season, at Palmerston Park a week on Saturday or Sunday.
Gers will travel to Dumfries with all eight of their new signings in tow for the first time in a competitive fixture as they are finally able to turn out for the club as registered players.
Manager McCoist made three changes to the side which had performed so well on Friday, with two of them enforced.
Due to rules regarding the non-use of trialists at this stage of the competition, Nicky Law and Jon Daly were omitted while Kyle McAusland dropped to the bench.
In came David Templeton and Dean Shiels, while Emilson Cribari also returned to action after a hamstring injury.
Berwick, of course, were visitors to Ibrox twice last season in the Third Division and gave a good account of themselves on both occasions despite losing.
That meant McCoist was wary of the English-based side, regardless of his own team’s sparkling start to its latest title bid in recent weeks.
And having seen his side do so well last time out, they began with less tempo than they had finished with in Lanarkshire.
The opening exchanges were mainly uninspiring, with the hosts having plenty of the ball but not doing enough with it as their passing often went astray.
But for a couple of half chances which came Little’s way, there was virtually nothing of note to look back on in the first 20 minutes.
To that point, Templeton had had a frustrating evening but he tried to inject life into the game with quick footwork in the box and it took a smart block to deny him.
The former Hearts winger then tried to thread Little in with a terrific pass and although the weight of the pass was good, it ran just too far ahead and keeper Paul Grant smothered.
Moments later Grant was beaten as Lewis Macleod tried to play through for Little after receiving a pass from Lee McCulloch.
Whether the striker got a touch was unclear but either way, the ball ran past the away goalie and was bound for the net until it was cleared off the line.
Little was certainly proving to be the most likely scorer for the hosts as they continued to probe patiently without displaying the sort of conviction McCoist was seeking.
Again he got into a good position and pulled the trigger after being fed by Templeton – but again a defensive block was enough to divert away from the target.
When Little wasn’t denied by the back line, Grant saved instead and that was the case with the forward’s creative attempt on the turn after Robbie Crawford’s cross.
Even the Northern Ireland international misfired as the interval approached and he opted to cut back Ian Black’s inventive pass rather than shoot when the chance had presented itself.
The interval gave Gers a chance to regroup and they began the second period with purpose as Little forced a corner.
From the set play, Sebastien Faure almost turned in an acrobatic volley but Grant did well to thrust a hand up into the air to paw it out of the goalmouth.
Almost immediately, Rangers’ pace dropped again and Berwick went on to have their best spell of the game so far.
They didn’t trouble Scott Gallacher much, although he did have to react smartly to gather Lee Currie’s long-effort.
A change was needed and when it came it reaped instant rewards as McCoist’s men finally broke the deadlock.
McKay had been on the pitch for just a few seconds having replaced Shiels when he was played in by Little after he had received from Faure.
And the little winger – a peripheral figure so far this term – produced a smart dinked finish with his first touch to put the Light Blues ahead.
Less than a minute later it was 2-0 as Crawford was released down the right and he opted to cross rather than tee up the onrushing Faure.
In doing so, he picked out Little and his bullet header gave him his third goal in as many games following strikes against Stranraer and Airdrie.
Suddenly Rangers had their tails up and Crawford’s firmly-struck volley was cut out after he’d done well to keep it down.
Little also had another opportunity when Wallace cut back to him but he scuffed his shot and when he did put the ball in the net again, he was flagged offside.
Templeton drove just over with a shot that took a nick on the way as the home team pressed for a third but they couldn’t get it.
Their efforts in that short hour-mark burst had been enough to separate the sides and now they turn attentions back to League One and Saturday’s visit of East Fife.
RANGERS: Gallacher; Faure, McCulloch, Cribari, Wallace; Crawford, Black, Macleod, Templeton (McAusland 77); Shiels (McKay 59), Little (Aird 72).
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Gasparotto.
SCORERS: McKay 60, Little 61.
BERWICK: Grant; Jacobs, Dunlop, Tulloch, Hoskins; Gray (Morris 56), Notman, Janczyk (Dalziel 70), Currie, O’Brien (Gelty 70); Lavery.
SUBS NOT USED: Bald, Fairbairn.
REFEREE: Euan Norris.
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