LEE MCCULLOCH was again a hat-trick hero as Rangers produced a stunning second half display, and battled from being a goal down, to claim all three points against Arbroath at Ibrox Stadium.
After a poor first half in which few goalscoring opportunities created the visitors got their noses in front straight after the break with Alan Cook producing a moment of magic to beat Cammy Bell.
Rangers, however, showed their resilience and goals from Bilel Mohsni, Andy Little and another sensational treble from super skipper McCulloch, his second in successive league games, meant Rangers ran out 5-1 winners in Ally McCoist’s 100th competitive game in charge.
The manager included seven of his summer signings in his starting eleven for today’s League One fixture and there was an air of excitement around the stadium as the teams were read out ahead of kick off.
The early signs were good with the Light Blues enjoying plenty of possession, Nicky Law pulling the strings and Stevie Smith bombing up and down the left wing. But with half an hour played Arbroath keeper Scott Morrison had not had a save to make and, if anything, the visitors were closest to breaking the deadlock.
On 19 minutes a clever, low cross from Cook curled in behind the Gers defence and number nine Lee Erwin stretched but could not get enough on the ball to direct it beyond Bell.
Arbroath’s confidence grew as the half went on and on 31 minutes a powerful shot from 25 yards from Darren Smith flew over the cross bar with Bell watching it closely.
A lot of credit must go to the visitors who were organised and disciplined early on and when Rangers did have the ball every player in Paul Sheerin’s side, including the manager himself, worked hard to get back and stifle the league leaders.
With 10 minutes of the first period remaining Jon Daly did have penalty appeal waved away by Crawford Allan. The big striker looked to be held back when going up to head a cross from Law but the ref was having none of it.
The goalless scoreline at half-time was an accurate reflection of a poor first half and at the start of the second period the Ibrox faithful were silenced when Arbroath took the lead.
Erwin did well to hold the ball up the box with Mohsni at his back. He teed up Cook and the number 10 produced a deft, chipped finish which dipped over Bell and into the net at his far post.
The Arbroath fans went crazy and the goal meant Rangers now had to react if they were going to take anything from the game. They certainly did that!
On 53 minutes Daly’s header from a Smith cross was deflected wide before McCoist decided made his first change with Templeton replacing Clark.
There was now more urgency in Rangers' play and before the hour they got the equaliser which was also a turning point in the game.
Law’s shot from distance cannoned off an Arbroath player before arriving at Mohsni’s feet and the French-Tunisian showed great composure to fire the ball into the net in front of the Copland Stand.
Things were now looking a lot brighter for the league leaders and on 65 minutes it was that man McCulloch who got his side in front with his fifth goal of the campaign.
Peralta’s corner was perfect for the skipper and his accurate header had too much power for Morrison who could only parry the ball into the net.
If that was good McCulloch’s second of the day was from the top drawer. Peralta’s free-kick hit Arbroath’s wall and when it came back out to Jig his rocket shot soared into the top corner of Morrison’s net with the keeper flapping at thin air.
McCulloch received a high five from his gaffer as he celebrated his wonder strike and within minutes it was announced that the Gers number six was the man of the match for the second league game in a row.
He wasn’t finished there though and after Andy Little had netted his side’s fourth goal with a near post finish Jig completed his hat-trick with another trademark header.
RANGERS (4-4-2): Bell; Faure, McCulloch, Mohsni, Smith; Peralta, Macleod (Crawford 74), Law, Little; Daly, Clark (Templeton 55)
SUBS: Simonsen, Foster, Cribari, Shiels, McKay
ARBROATH (4-4-2): Morrison; Banjo, Donaldson, Travis, Hamilton; Linn (Sibanda 83), Sheerin, Smith (Bayne 77), Chisholm; Erwin (Milne 68), Cook
SUBS: Bullock, Yao, Lindsay, McWalter
BOOKED: Hamilton, Erwin
REF: Crawford Allan
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