RANGERS have clinched the League One title after a 3-0 victory over Airdrieonians at Ibrox took Ally McCoist’s side to 80 points at the top of the table.
With second place Dunfermline only able to reach 78 points if they win their remaining fixtures the Light Blues are the champions of Scottish football’s third tier with eight league games to spare.
Super skipper Lee McCulloch marked the occasion by scoring a sensational first half hat-trick and although there were no more goals in the second period there was a party atmosphere throughout the 90 minutes.
After the disappointment of drawing with Albion Rovers in the Scottish Cup on Sunday there was certainly a reaction from the home side as they put in a strong display to get over the finish line.
McCoist named Andy Little in his starting eleven alongside top scorer Jon Daly and it was the Ulsterman’s energy that won Rangers a penalty after just a minute of play.
Little latched on to David Templeton’s long ball and as he entered the 18-yard box Grant Adam came rushing from his line and clattered into him with a late challenge.
McCulloch quickly grabbed the ball and from 12 yards he sent the Diamonds keeper the wrong way with a perfectly executed spot kick.
It was just the start the Ibrox faithful wanted to see and on 19 minutes they doubled their advantage when McCulloch blasted home an almost identical penalty.
Lee Wallace fed the ball down the left wing to Templeton and when he cut inside his marker with a sharp turn he was brought down by a clumsy tackle.
Ref Brian Colvin again made the correct decision and McCulloch hammered the ball high into the net before celebrating in front of jubilant fans in the Broomloan Stand.
The two-goal advantage was certainly deserved at this early stage with every player in blue using the ball well and pushing forward with intent at every opportunity.
Airdrie, who had won their seven previous league games, were struggling to cope with the speed of the Gers attacks with Fraser Aird, Nicky Law and Templeton providing support to the strikers and Wallace and Richard Foster using their pace to good effect to get up and down the park as the pressure continued.
On 35 minutes it was Little who moved out wide and when he crossed to Law his shot brought out a comfortable save from Adam who was having a busy first half.
With five minutes remaining McCulloch had completed his terrific hat trick. Little did well to find his skipper in the 18-yard box and he managed to get a low shot away to beat the visitor’s number one.
Ibrox was now rocking but before the break McCoist was forced to make two substitutions with Little and Templeton pulling up with injuries. They were immediately replaced by Arnold Peralta and Nicky Clark who only had a short run-out before the ref blew for the interval.
The Rangers fans gave their team a standing ovation as they walked up the tunnel and as they walked back out they got off their seats again to belt out Penny Arcade before the action resumed.
Remarkably it was McCulloch who again had his side’s first goalscoring opportunity of the second half. Aird’s corner landed at the feet of his skipper but his fizzed shot from 16 yards was blocked before it could trouble Adam.
It was now wave after wave of Gers attacks and when the lively Aird found the overlapping Wallace with a great pass the left back’s near post shot brought out a good save from Adam.
The Rangers fans were clearly enjoying what they were seeing and on 54 minutes Mohsni produced a moment of class in the last third.
The big defender played an excellent one-two with Clark to get in behind Airdrie’s defence but his low shot across goal bounced off the far post and back to him again. He then pulled another shot wide before putting his arms out in mock celebration as he ran back to the half-way line!
Clark was busy on his return to action and after a lull in proceedings his shot from 20 yards with five minutes remaining was to be the last real chance of the game.
At the final whistle the bears again stood to applaud their side as 'We Are The Champions' blared out from the Ibrox PA system. Lee McCulloch will undoubtedly grab the headlines for his treble this evening but it was an excellent team display from Ally McCoist's side and the players and coaching staff did a lap of honour to complete a great night's work.
RANGERS: Bell; Foster, McCulloch, Mohsni, Wallace; Aird, Law, Black, Templeton (Peralta 44); Little (Clark 44), Daly
SUBS: Simonsen, Crawford, Smith, Faure, Shiels
GOALS: McCulloch 2pen 20pen 40
AIRDRIEONIANS: Adam, Barr (Stewart 61), Bain, Watt, Buchanan, Milojevic, McAleer, McCormack, Lister (Cadden 74), Parker (Coogans 79), Boyle
SUBS: McCluskey, Coult, Evans, Ward
BOOKINGS: Adam, Buchanan
REF: Brian Colvin