RANGERS were given a good workout by Partick Thistle at Firhill tonight, with Cedric Itten’s goal the difference as Steven Gerrard got minutes into 21 different players.
Sporting their stunning new Castore home kit for the first time, the club’s 150th anniversary season began with a rather youthful XI for the first-half as the Light Blues’ preparations for the new campaign step up a notch.
Among the starters tonight were six Academy graduates, with the youngsters given an opportunity to show boss Steven Gerrard what they could do in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
After a rather eeksy-peeksy opening, Rangers soon took over almost total domination of the ball on the superb Firhill surface.
A slip from Ross Docherty in the middle of the park for Thistle presented the ball to Glenn Middleton, who, quick as a flash, pounced and threaded a ball through for the always-lively Jermain Defoe to latch onto.
Defoe went one-on-one with goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon, but it was the stopper who came out on top, denying the starting captain with by diving low to his feet.
At the other end, Robby McCrorie made a fine stop from Brian Graham, tipping his header over the bar, while Glenn Middleton had a good opportunity, being set up well by Jordan Jones.
Half-time saw 10 changes made by boss Gerrard, with only goalkeeper McCrorie remaining in place, and one of those subs, Cedric Itten, almost had an instant impact, bringing a fine save out of goalkeeper Sneddon with an effort which was curling into the bottom corner.
The ball was almost totally under Rangers’ control, and with that, opportunities became more and more commonplace, and at the back post, James Tavernier had an effort deflected just over.
Kemar Roofe tested Sneddon on the turn from 25-yards, the goalkeeper holding on well, while Steven Bell made a fine block to prevent Cedric Itten netting a certain goal on the end of a Tavernier cross.
Roofe then hit the base of the post from the 18-yard line – Stephen Kelly being his provider, before, on 80 minutes, Rangers were awarded a penalty.
James Tavernier’s free-kick from 25-yards was blocked in the wall by the hand of Ross McIver, and referee Greg Aitken pointed immediately to the spot.
Up-stepped Tavernier, and while he looked to have beaten Sneddon, the ball came back off the post and Thistle scrambled it away to safety.
The heads didn’t go down, however, and Gers kept probing and got their reward on 83 minutes. Ianis Hagi played a sublime ball in for Cedric Itten, and he made no mistake from his finish from slightly right of goal, lifting the ball over the diving Sneddon and finding the back of the net.
Rangers preparations will continue in the coming week before they head to the Wirral on Saturday lunchtime to face Tranmere Rovers.
RANGERS FIRST-HALF XI: McCrorie; King, Edmundson, Simpson, Maxwell; Williamson, Mayo; Middleton, Wright, Jones; Defoe.
RANGERS SECOND-HALF XI: McCrorie; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey; Kelly, Davis; Hagi, Roofe, Aribo; Itten.
SUBS NOT USED: Wright, Lowry.
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