RAMPANT Rangers gave their guests from the Armed Forces a day to remember as they racked up their ninth successive win and seventh in League One against Stenhousemuir.
As 400 members of the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Army and the RAF had the red carpet rolled out for them, the Light Blues were ruthless winners over the Warriors.
A first-half brace from Jon Daly and Andy Little’s strike had Gers in control with a three-goal advantage at the break.
Daly then completed his first hat-trick for the club – all of them headers – in the second period before Lee Wallace broke his duck for the season.
Daly poked in a sixth in the closing moments ahead of Robbie Crawford and David Templeton then Bilel Mohsni netted to round off a very comfortable afternoon’s work.
This was a confident showing from last year’s Third Division champions and they are certainly building momentum as we move into October.
Today’s result sees Ally McCoist’s men continue their perfect start to the title race and they did so with a strong performance in which they were barely troubled.
Manager McCoist made two changes to the side which edged a 1-0 win at Forfar six days ago and both introductions were expected.
Ian Black made his first start since serving a three-match ban for breaching SFA rules on gambling in football.
Lewis Macleod also returned from a knee injury, with Stevie Smith and David Templeton dropping to the bench.
It took exactly two minutes for Rangers to edge ahead and it was a straightforward goal which put them ahead.
Arnold Peralta drew a foul just next to the right edge of the penalty area and Black swung the free kick into the area.
It was a good delivery too, with Daly rising highest to nod a soaring header past keeper Chris Smith and inside the far post.
Gers were clearly hungry in the early stages, with Black driving past the post and Daly clipping Little’s teasing ball across goal just wide.
As for Stenny, they weren’t too far away with Bryan Hodge’s rising half volley from 30 yards but it was their only real attempt of note in the opening phase.
That was to prove costly for them just after the quarter-hour mark as the hosts got a second goal which they deserved but was somewhat fortuitous.
Macleod and Wallace linked superbly down the left channel, with the former’s ball into the box a little awkward to get to.
Yet Scotland international Wallace persevered and when the away defence tried to clear a couple of yards from the line, it cannoned off the former Hearts man.
In turn, it ricocheted across the area to Daly who, with an open goal just inches in front of him, had the simple task of putting his second into the net.
Macleod screwed a shot away from the target, Law then couldn’t find Daly and Little bent one over the bar after checking inside when he should have kept charging on.
Rangers were completely dominant and on the rare occasions when their opponents did come upfield, they found a solid home defence in stubborn mood.
Daly nearly touched a low Law shot in with half-time approaching and Black put a tame attempt the wrong side of the woodwork as McCoist’s men kept pressing.
Little was then denied the third after he got on the end of a Wallace pass but was awarded with his sixth of the season seconds later from the resulting corner.
Mohsni got up well to head Black’s cross and Chris Smith saved on the line but Kevin McKinlay’s clearance came off a combination of Ross Smith and the Gers striker.
Who got the final touch wasn’t totally clear but Little certainly wheeled away in celebration and the likelihood is Smith will be happy for him to take the credit.
There was time for one more chance before the break but no more goals as Law hit the post after some great footwork from Daly reminiscent of his second strike at Airdrie last month.
Rangers continued to have the best of the play after the restart, with Little pushing a cushioned header over and Richard Foster only inches away with a rising drive.
That was the prelude to the goal which saw Daly complete his treble and it was a good goal for him to get but a terrible one for Stenny to lose.
Foster’s ball into the box was so tempting but Little missed it and it seemed Ross McMillan would clear at the back post.
Yet for whatever reason he left it instead and Daly was there to throw himself at it and send a bullet header home.
By now the hosts literally had players queuing up looking to score, with Little smacking the bar and Daly there waiting for the rebound, which he sent arcing just over.
Instead, it was Wallace who made it five and his goal came from a magnificent pass from Black.
The midfielder was looking to play cross-field balls all day long and one on the hour split the defence and played the left-back in, who did the rest with a measured, low finish.
With three points sealed long ago, it was a case of how many more Gers would score and Law converted at the second attempt but had already been flagged offside.
Daly wasn’t to be denied another though and as he, Crawford and Nicky Clark all broke the offside trap, the latter set him up for a tap in.
Substitute Templeton then scored against his old club after Law’s shot was saved but the best was yet to come from Mohsni.
His overhead kick in injury time was audicious but outstanding as he struck from a corner to round off the biggest success of the campaign yet.
RANGERS: Bell; Foster, McCulloch, Mohsni, Wallace; Peralta (Crawford 81), Black, Law, Macleod (Templeton 77); Little (Clark 65), Daly.
SUBS NOT USED: Simonsen, Cribari, Aird, S Smith.
SCORERS: Daly 3, 16, 51, 82, Little 37, Wallace 61, Templeton 86, Mohsni 90.
STENHOUSEMUIR: C Smith; Devlin, R Smith, McMillan, McKinlay; Hodge, Higgins, Dickson, D Smith; Ferguson (Lynch 59); Gemmell (Malone 70).
SUBS NOT USED: Shaw, Douglas, McNeil, Anderson, Brash.
REFEREE: Brian Colvin.
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