SEVENTEEN weeks and a day have passed since Gers last took to a football pitch for a match and the Gers defeated Hamilton 2:1 in a bounce game at the Training Centre.
Sporting the stunning new Castore home kit for the first-time, everyone in Steven Gerrard’s squad was given a run-out during the 90 minutes, barring Steven Davis, Ryan Jack, Allan McGregor, Filip Helander and Nathan Patterson, who were all carrying minor knocks.
Indeed, each of the manager’s new summer signings – Ianis Hagi, Calvin Bassey and Jon McLaughlin - were all given opportunities at some point in the afternoon.
Gers began with much of the ball, but it was Accies who took the lead after eight minutes as Ronan Hughes picked the ball up on the edge of the area, strode forward and finished well out of reach of McLaughlin.
The home side responded well, however, and very quickly camped themselves in the Hamilton half with James Tavernier, Joe Aribo and Ianis Hagi all having efforts blocked by white-shirted defenders.
Calvin Bassey managed to get something on a Borna Barisic corner at the back post through a cluster of bodies, but his header was grasped by goalkeeper Ryan Fulton.
Hagi then dug a superb effort out of his feet from 25 yards which only just cleared the bar, before George Stanger got his head on another Hagi effort from outside the area which looked goalbound.
The goal looked to be coming as half-time approached, and on 43 minutes it duly arrived. With Gers still pushed forward from a corner, the ball broke left for Ryan Kent, and he delivered an excellent ball into the front-post for Calvin Bassey to nod-on into the back of the net beyond the reach of Fulton.
Into the second half, and the Light Blues twice came close to taking the lead in the opening minute of the half.
The lively Jamie Murphy was alert to rob Daryl Meikle of the ball as he dallied on it at the back, but sub ‘keeper Kyle Gourlay did well to block his powerful effort from the edge of the area.
The ball broke, however, to the incoming Alfredo Morelos, and he hit it first-time from 25-yards with his effort only just clearing the bar.
Rangers continued to threaten, and Murphy had another effort from distance held by Gourlay, while the goalkeeper made a super block at his near-post as George Edmundson flicked a Jordan Jones corner goalwards.
A grounded Lewis Mayo had an effort on the six-yard line deflected over, while Gourlay denied Morelos from close-range on the end of a Murphy ball into the area.
Greg Stewart then did well to intercept a Gourlay ball to full-back Kyle Munro but after superbly dancing his way into the area, he fired his eventual effort over the bar.
All the play was being made by Rangers, and the chances were only going one way – and with just three minutes left, the Light Blues were awarded a penalty with Markus Fjortoft bringing down Morelos inside the area.
Up-stepped El Buffalo to take it, and he expertly dispatched it into the back of the net, waiting for Gourlay to move right before finishing to his left, to win the game for the Light Blues.
This was a very worthwhile exercise for Gers as they stepped up their preparations for the new season. Next up is Ligue 1 side Lyon on Thursday evening