RANGERS have beaten Albion Rovers to progress to the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup for the first time since 2009.
Goals from Fraser Aird and Jon Daly gave the Light Blues the victory they needed to keep their Cup, and treble, dreams alive and they will now face Dundee United at Ibrox on April 12 with the winner of that going through to the final at Parkhead in May.
It was Aird who opened the scoring in the 17th minute of tonight’s last eight replay at New Douglas Park.
19-year-old Calum Gallagher was a surprise inclusion in Ally McCoist’s starting XI but it was his terrific cross from the right which gave Aird, also 19, the chance to fire his side into a deserved lead.
Rangers then had to wait until the 57th minute before they made it 2-0. Richard Foster’s excellent cross found Daly who produced a trademark header to beat keeper Neil Parry.
The League One champions were not at their best this evening but they did what they had to do on Hamilton Accies’ tricky artificial surface which was watered heavily in the build up to the game.
Gallagher’s 70-minute display would undoubtedly have pleased McCoist as would Kyle Hutton’s performance in the holding midfield role.
Rovers managed to keep it tight in the early stages of the game with Rangers enjoying plenty of possession without really testing Neil Parry.
On 17 minutes however the big keeper was picking the ball out of his net when Aird broke the deadlock.
Gallagher curled in a great cross from the right and Aird did well to get in front of his marker before cushioning the ball home confidently from six yards.
It was a terrific finish from the youngster who clearly enjoyed the moment as he celebrated in front of the travelling Bears.
Rovers now had to respond if they were to stay in the tie and on 25 minutes they had a great opportunity to level the score.
The ball was cut back to lone striker David Crawford in the box but from 15 yards he blasted a powerful shot straight at Cammy Bell who did well to parry it away.
After that scare Rangers came close to doubling their lead. A 30-yard half volley from Mohsni flew past the post before Rovers’ skipper Ciaran Donnelly nearly glanced the ball into the corner of his own net from Ian Black’s free kick.
Aird’s pace and ability to cut inside from the left was causing problems for James Ward’s side and on 35 minutes he did it again when he skipped past Mark McGuigan but his right foot thunderbolt was brilliantly blocked by full back Alan Reid.
Before the half time whistle Foster again did well to use his blistering pace to work an opening. The right back’s cross was dummied by Daly but Gallagher couldn’t get enough purchase on the ball to beat Parry from 15 yards.
After the break Rangers continued to dominate the play and seven minutes after the restart a low, hard cross from Wallace flashed across goal with Daly inches away from making a connection. A corner then came in from the right and Mohsni stooped to head the ball wide of the post.
You felt a goal was coming and on 57 minutes it arrived. Foster’s deep cross was perfect for Daly who headed the ball back across goal and into the net.
With a two-goal cushion in place it was party time for the Gers fans with Rovers now facing a mountain the size of Everest to climb.
Rangers were able to enjoy the last half hour and with 20 minutes remaining Gallagher received a standing ovation from the Gers support having impressed on his first start for the senior side.
Hutton was also taken off with the clock ticking down and having the midfielder fit again is undoubtedly a big boost for the club at this stage of the 2013/14 campaign.
With Seb Faure and Nicky Clark now on Rangers kept pushing for a third goal and although it wasn’t to be the players’ desire to get through to the semis was there for all to see.
On this occasion Rovers were no match for 33-times Cup winners who will no doubt expect a far tougher test when Jackie McNamara’s Tangerines come to Ibrox for a mouthwatering semi-final clash at Ibrox Stadium on April 12.
ALBION ROVERS (4-5-1): Parry; Reid, R. Dunlop, M. Dunlop, Russell; McGuigan, Chaplain, Donnelly, Cusack (Flood 78) , Phillips (Tiffney 80); Crawford (Walker 60)
SUBS: McGinley, Kennedy, Innes, Maguire
BOOKINGS: Chaplain, Reid, Russell
RANGERS (4-5-1): Bell; Foster, Mohsni, McCulloch, Wallace; Hutton (Faure 80); Gallagher (Clark 70), Black, Law, Aird; Daly
SUBS: Simonsen, Peralta, Crawford, Smith, Shiels
GOALS: Aird 17, Daly 57
REF: John Beaton