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Monday, 20 January 2014 21:35

Forfar Athletic 0-2 Rangers

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BILEL MOHSNI and David Templeton's goals gave Rangers the win they needed to extend their lead at the top of League One to 20 points as they edged out Forfar 2-0 at Station Park.

On a tetchy night in Angus, the Light Blues had to persevere to make the breakthrough they ultimately deserved in the final 15 minutes against a side which has caused them constant problems this term.

And while the performance itself again wasn’t pretty, enough was done against stubborn opponents to ensure victory was secured.

In turn, the advantage over second-top Dunfermline has been stretched after their surprise defeat at home to Airdrieonians on Saturday.

Manager Ally McCoist will be happy to have seen his men emerge unscathed after they recorded a fifth success on the bounce without conceding.

Equally so, he’ll be relived he doesn’t have to take his players back there this season. Without doubt, it’s where they’ve had to work hardest for their pair of league triumphs.

Gers made three changes to the side which beat East Fife nine days ago and one of them was enforced in the hours before the game.

Cammy Bell, expecting his first child with his partner Emma, got the call she had gone into labour and he left the team hotel to take delivery of a new baby daughter.

That meant Steve Simonsen came in to make his debut after signing for the club in the summer, while Lewis Macleod returned from injury and Richard Foster started too.

Andy Little dropped to the bench, Ian Black missed out through suspension and fit-again Templeton had to make do with a place among the substitutes.

The Light Blues had found both of their previous visits to Station Park difficult, losing one 2-1 in the League Cup back in August then edging a league game 1-0 seven weeks later.

Sure enough, the first period was a scrap as well and the artificial surface made for a number in instances where the ball bounced off two or three players in quick succession.

As a result, neither team really settled into a rhythm although the hosts played to the conditions well and unsurprisingly appeared far more comfortable.

Forfar’s physical presence caused as many problems as anything else and Stuart Malcolm’s early header appeared to be going over before dipping late and hitting the bar.

In response, Nicky Law sent a wicked volley goalwards after chesting down well but ex-Celtic keeper Rab Douglas got a strong hand to it to keep it out.

Rangers didn’t create much else initially but felt they should have had a penalty when Lee Wallace and Darren Dods clashed in the box after Macleod released the Scotland cap.

Referee Stephen Finnie thought differently though and waved away claims of a bodycheck as played raged on.

It was on the counter that the visitors were getting their best chances and another precision pass – this time from Jon Daly – set Dean Shiels clear.

Having scored a double on his return to the team last time out to give his side a 2-0 win, another goal would have done him a power of good.

But the Northern Ireland international’s first touch took him too wide and slightly off balance, he couldn’t get enough direction on his shot as it went wide at the near post.

Frustration set in and as Forfar went toe to toe with the 54-times Scottish champions, the away side collected a trio of cautions in quick succession.

Sebastien Faure was first in the book with a lunging tackle and Lee McCulloch then Mohsni quickly followed.

In the midst of all that, a firm Martyn Fotheringham drive took a nick off an away player but Simonsen got good hands behind it and held well.

He was called into action again moments later when a McCulloch clearance spun up in the air and well to Gavin Swankie.

The scorer of both goals in that famous League Cup win for his side five months ago, there was no joy for him this time as Simonsen again matched the attempt on goal.

As half-time approached, Gers enjoyed their first period of sustained pressure and their best chance drew a smart double save from Douglas.

First he got down to deny Fraser Aird then, when the ball spilled, he was in the right place again to keep out Daly.

Goalless at the break, McCoist sent his players out with renewed purpose as they started to apply more pressure on a Forfar side which was beginning to make mistakes.

Gary Fusco was fortunate not to be sent off after getting a yellow card for a reckless foul on Wallace then somehow avoided a red for a worse challenge on Macleod.

His manager knew he was fortunate too and swiftly substituted him for Mark Baxter, but only after Swankie and Iain Campbell had also received a ticket.

McCulloch tried to inspire his side with a driven free kick from 30-yards and it smacked off the bar before flying out of the ground.

Over the next couple of minutes, Rangers had at least a couple of perfectly valid penalty claims with were again dismissed.

First, Mohsni was barged in the back as he waited to head into the net after Faure’s shot had spun up in the air towards the back post.

Seconds later, Daly’s shot from close range appeared to be punched away by Dods but wasn’t spotted and then Aird’s follow up was helped over.

Forfar were on the ropes and Campbell knew it so he threw on a second substitute to stem the tide as Gavin Malin took Omar Kader’s place.

McCoist replied almost immediately as he tried to keep the tempo high and Templeton was introduced for Shiels.

And then, at last, the League One leaders finally got the goal that set them on their way to an extended lead at the top of the table.

Mohsni was the scorer, nodding in his eighth goal of a good campaign so far with a strong angled header after rising well to meet Aird’s corner.

The relief in the away support was tangible and the fans packed into the terrace behind Douglas’ goal knew how crucial his contribution was likely to be.

As expected, Forfar hit back and Dale Hilson sent a drive wide but was given a corner all the same even though Simonsen didn’t touch it.

With hindsight, the Englishman will probably be pleased the decision went against him because it led to one of the saves of his career.

When the set piece came in, Mohsni went to head it clear and his strong connection bounced off Hilson and back across goal.

Despite probably being wrong footed, Simonsen brilliantly adjusted to thrust an arm out and touch the goalbound deflection on to the bar. It was a wonderful stop.

With a minute left, Templeton made the points safe as he stepped inside past three men before steering high into the top corner with a fine solo effort.

Finally, Gers could breathe more easily and they won't be in a hurry to come back to Station Park.

FORFAR: Douglas, Fusco (Baxter 58), I Campbell, Dods, Malcolm, Faeroe, Kader (Malin 65), Fotheringham (R Campbell 86), Templeman, Swankie, Hilson.

SUBS NOT USED: Hill, Andrews, McCabe, Dale.

BOOKINGS: Fusco, Swankie, I Campbell, Baxter.

RANGERS: Simonsen; Foster, McCulloch, Mohsni, Wallace; Faure; Aird, Shiels (Templeton 71), Law, Macleod; Daly.

SUBS NOT USED: Gallacher, Little, Cribari, Crawford, Murdoch, Telfer.

SCORERS: Mohsni 75, Templeton 89.

BOOKINGS: Faure, McCulloch, Mohsni, Wallace, Law.

REFEREE: Stephen Finnie.

ATTENDANCE: 3,067.

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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