SECOND half goals from Nicky Law and Jon Daly gave Rangers a hard-fought, but thoroughly deserved, victory over Mark Roberts’ Ayr United at Somerset Park.
After an even opening 45 minutes which saw both sides create numerous goalscoring opportunities it was Law that broke the deadlock within 60 seconds of the restart, the midfielder firing the ball into the net from close range after a good run and cross from Fraser Aird.
Daly then made it 2-0 on 58 minutes. Lee Wallace’s superb delivery could not have been better for the club’s leading scorer who powered a header past David Hutton to secure all three points for the Light Blues.
Once again it was a terrific team performances from Ally McCoist’s men with Cammy Bell superb between the posts and every outfield player putting in a great shift at one of the league’s trickiest away venues.
The manager made two changes to his starting eleven with Emilson Cribari and Richard Foster slotting in for the suspended Lee McCulloch and Bilel Mohsni and both were impressive throughout. Ayr meanwhile had a few familiar faces in their 18-man squad with no fewer than five former Rangers players listed.
Kevin Kyle, of course, was with the club in SFL3 last season but Adam Hunter, Brian Gilmour, Michael Donald and Anthony Marenghi all came through the youth ranks at Murray Park before moving on to get first-team football.
Nine-in-a-row legend Andy Goram is also Ayr’s goalkeeping coach having recently joined the club until the end of the season!
As expected the Honest Men were fired up for this contest and with just two minutes played Bell was called into action when he dived low to his left to stop Kyle’s powerful right foot shot.
The Gers keeper then had to be at his very best to deny United’s Craig Malcolm who thought he had found the postage stamp corner of the net with a terrific drive from distance.
On 15 minutes Rangers created their first goalscoring opportunity of the match. Templeton flicked the ball away from his marker before playing a great pass to Lee Wallace. His near post cross found Dean Shiels but he couldn’t beat Hutton.
It was better from the visitors though and when a cross from the left found Aird in acres of space on the edge of the 18-yard box the youngster’s first time shot was straight at Ayr’s keeper.
At the other end former Kilmarnock number one Bell was having a busy afternoon against his old rivals and before the half hour mark he made another stunning stop after the ball had dropped to Donald in the box from a corner.
This led to a swift counter attack with Templeton finding Law pushing forward with several Ayr players sprinting back. Law looked up and instead of shooting he cut inside before finding Aird who smashed a shot off the crossbar. The ball rebounded back to Law but he put it over bar from 10 yards.
Despite the lack of goals it was proving to be an intriguing contest between two sides sitting first and third in League One. Both attacked at every opportunity and on 37 minutes a powerful run took Ayr playmaker Malcolm past two challenges but his sclaffed shot went wide of Bell’s goal.
Aird was then guilty of glancing a header wide from six yards before the half time whistle but he made amends straight away in the second half when he set up Law for the opener.
His teasing cross fizzed across the six yard box and the Gers number 11 was there to prod the ball into the net his tenth goal of the season in front of the jubilant travelling Bears.
Ayr now had to respond if they were to take anything form the match and Malcolm blasted a shot wide before Rangers doubled their advantage through Daly.
Lee Wallace’s superb cross from the left was perfect for the towering hitman who headed the ball beyond Hutton for his 21st goal in 2013/14.
With a two-goal lead in place Rangers were now in total control and this allowed McCoist to give both Andy Little and Arnold Peralta a run out.
Despite a late flurry there was to be no more goals but the Rangers players will no doubt be delighted with their efforts this afternoon as they edge closer to the League One title.
AYR UNITED (4-4-2): Hutton; Hunter, McLaughlin, Lithgow, Pope; Crawford (Shankland 63), Gilmour, Malcolm, Donald; Forrest, Kyle (McGowan 75)
SUBS: Newman, Campbell, Longridge, Marenghi, Wardrope
BOOKINGS: Malcolm, Gilmour, Lithgow, McGowan, Hunter
RANGERS (4-4-2): Bell; Foster, Faure, Cribari, Wallace; Aird, Black, Law, Templeton (Peralta 78); Shiels (Little 68), Daly
SUBS: Simonsen, Crawford, Smith, Halkett, Telfer
GOALS: Law 45, Daly 58
REF: John McKendrick
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