Gers give Fifers the Ibrox blues

Gareth Wardlaw salutes the East Fife fans at Ibrox (picture by Walter Neilson, 3212288)

Gareth Wardlaw salutes the East Fife fans at Ibrox (picture by Walter Neilson, 3212288)

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Rangers......................................................4

McCulloch (15 mins′, 62), Shiels (34), ′Wallace (47′)

East Fife.....................................................0

TONGUE-in-cheek comments were made before the match over East Fife’s seeded status and their ranking as a higher division club.

However, as soon as the team line-ups for this League Cup first-round clash were announced, it was clear the gulf in quality was weighed in Rangers’ favour.

Among the Gers’ starting XI were internationals Carlos Bocanegra, Kirk Broadfoot, Lee McCulloch and Dorin Goian.

Those on a bench which included Kevin Kyle and Francisco Sandaza demonstrated further what an embarrassment of riches the Division Three side still has at its disposal.

Rangers’ off-field troubles are well documented and, for the near 40,000 fans inside the stadium, this game, their first competitive fixture at home, was a chance to celebrate the club’s survival after a summer of doubt.

East Fife’s players went about their warm-up in front of their own raucous away supporters while the Rangers PA blasted out tracks such as ‘I’m Still Standing’ to whet the appetite of the home support.

The Fifers were missing summer signing Collin Samuel but welcomed back Paul McManus into the starting line-up.

Defender Andrew Cook also returned at left back.

The game had to be delayed 20 minutes to let a bumper crowd of 38,160 take their seats – much to the delight of the watching East Fife board members, no doubt.

By the time the teams were welcomed on to the park, the PA music really was blasting out at 11 and smiles on the faces of the eager and excited Fife players were evident.

If the visitors were to stand any chance of advancing to the second round, they knew ‘keeper Michael Brown would have to have a stormer.

The Fife goalie was called into action with just a couple of minutes gone when he had to beat away a Lee Wallace cross.

Gareth Wardlaw was asked to play a deeper role and the former St Mirren man almost played in McManus with a neat header, which was cleared.

The Fifers had a bright opening spell and were again unlucky when David Muir was inches away from connecting with a Darren McCormack free-kick.

But, after this, Rangers began to get into their stride and East Fife had Brown to thank when he pulled off a stunning save from a close-range Andrew Little header.

Rangers took the lead on the quarter of an hour mark when Barrie McKay released Lee McCulloch, who composed himself before sliding the ball under Brown.

Brown had to be at his best again when Dorin Goian fired an effort towards goal which needed tipped over.

A second goal looked inevitable and it came when McKay had a shot blocked before the re-bound fell to Dean Shiels, who lofted the ball home.

Durie’s men battled and chased hard, with Wardlaw seemingly covering every inch of grass while Darren Smith attempted to maintain possession when he could.

The third goal came minutes after the break through Lee Wallace, who rammed a rebound home from a tight angle.

To be fair to East Fife, they stuck to their task well, but on the day, were just up against a superior group of players.

McCulloch scored number four when he was played through by McKay.

Bayview boss Gordon Durie freshened his side up with the introductions of Robert Sloan, Ross Brown and Sean Jamieson.

Sloan came closest to nabbing the goal the away support deserved when he fired in a free-kick which was well held by Neil Alexander.

A goal just wasn’t to come and Rangers saw out the game.

Rangers - Alexander, Goian, Bocanegra, Broadfoot, Wallace, McCulloch, Little, Black (Kyle 80), Shiels, McKay (Hutton 79), McLeod (Sandaza 66).

Subs (not used) - Gallacher, Hegarty.

East Fife - M. Brown, Durie, Cook, Campbell, McCormack, Smith, Johnstone (R. Brown 80), Muir, Wardlaw, McManus (Jamieson 60), McBride (Sloan 60).

Subs (not used) - Collier, White.

Referee - John McKendrick.

Attendance - 38,160.

Starcheck ratings - Brown 3 points, Smith 2, Wardlaw 1.