SPL v Rangers
RANGERS 4 DUNFERMLINE 1 Date: 23/03/04
Fixture: BOS SPL Premier League
Attendance: 47487, Kick Off: 19:45
Referee: Dougie McDonald
With Scott Thomson once again out injured, it was recently installed vice-captain Barry Nicholson who led the team out at Ibrox. Barry wasted no time in acknowledging the small band of not much more than 100 Pars fans seated below the giant screen in the north-west corner of the ground.
In a surprising team selection, manager Jimmy Calderwood had chosen to leave Craig Brewster and Richie Byrne on the bench, and set his stall out with a rather uninspiring looking 5-4-1 formation, with Stevie Crawford ploughing a loan furrow up front.
If the idea was to frustrate Rangers, then unfortunately it did not work. Straight from the kick-off the home side forced a corner, and from the flag kick Alan Hutton headed home with goalkeeper Stillie nowhere. 1-0 Rangers, and one minute played showing on the scoreboard behind the goal.
Hutton was in a different kind of action a few minutes later when he and Derek Young had a nasty clash of heads which left both players requiring treatment, but both players returned to the action immediately after the drop-ball which followed.
Things went from bad to worse for Dunfermline as early as the 11th minute, when after some soft tackling, but also good work from Gavin Rae, Lovenkrands was left in the clear 18 yards out, and his well struck shot beat Stillie at his near post. 2-0 Rangers.
And things could have got even worse for the Pars when Mols had Stillie scrambling at the edge of his area, and then a mix-up between Tod and Crawford created space for Rangers wide on the right, but fortunately for the visitors defence the cross was poor.
Lovenkrands, looking extremely sharp, had another chance in the 18th minute when he turned well on the edge of the penalty area, but this time Stillie produced an outstanding safe to turn the ball away for a corner.
It had been one-way traffic until now, but in the 20th minute Pars skipper Barry Nicholson found space wide on the right, and his inch perfect cross was met perfectly by Andy Tod, and Klos stood motionless as the veteran’s header nestled neatly in the corner of the net.
The Pars fans could now be heard from the first time, and sensed that their team were back in the match – how wrong could they be. Before 30 minutes was on the clock, the game was over as a contest. On 25 minutes, Lovenkrands made space on the left, and the ball broke to Ronald de Boer who finished brilliantly, and two minutes later De Bouer was the provider when he fed Michael Mols who slipped the ball home to make it 4-1.
The Pars were in disarray by this stage, and one sensed that Jimmy Calderwood was admitting an error in his original team selection when in the 37th minute goalscorer Andy Tod, visibly disappointed with the decision, was taken off and striker Craig Brewster brought on. At this stage the formation was changed to a more balanced looking 4-4-2.
In the 40th minute, Stephen Hughes swept the ball across the face of the Pars goal, but no Rangers player could get on the end of the cross, and on the stroke of half-time Mols headed just wide.
At the half-time interval, the crowd of 47,487 was treated to a tribute to Davie Cooper, the Ibrox legend who died nine years ago on 23 March 1995. The big screens showed a selection of goals that he had scored for Rangers over the years.
When the teams came out for the second half, both teams had made half-time substitutions. Rangers had taken off Ronald De Boer, who was to be undergoing a minor operation on Wednesday, and for the Pars, Richie Byrne had replaced the out of sorts, Aaron Labonte at left back.
In the very first minute of the second half, Darren Young lost cheap possession to Stephen Hughes on the half-way line, and when Young caught up with Hughes seconds later and brought him down from behind with the ball away, there were fears that the referee’s card might have been a different colour from the yellow that he produced.
It was 1-1 in the bookings department in the 53rd minute when Alan Hutton was booked for persistent fouling, and 2 minutes after that Darren Young had a snap shot from 25 yards, but Stefan Klos saved easily to his left. Play swung up the other end, and a superb Lovenkrands cross was headed for a corner by Scott Wilson, and the corner itself was well held by Stillie. This was Lovenkrands’ last piece of action as he was taken off to a standing ovation in the 62nd minute to be replaced by Chris Burke.
Whilst there was little doubt that Rangers had taken their foot off the gas, the Pars did come a little bit more into the match at this stage. Crawford did well on the left, and put in a good cross which was met strongly by Brewster`s header, but it was straight at Klos.
In 77 minutes Rangers had a free kick just outside the box when Wilson fouled Burke. De Boer’s shot was parried by Stillie and Thomson netted the rebound, but the stand side linesman’s flag was up for offside, which looked a pretty marginal decision from the press box.
The game was dying on its feet by this stage, although Byrne got the better of Hutton wide on the left in the 82nd minute and earned a free kick. Unfortunately Darren Young failed to get the dead ball cross above knee height, and any potential dander was easily cleared.
After the committed Byrne had been booked for a return foul on Hutton, Derek Young had a chance to give the scoreline an unwarranted respectability when Brewster put him through with a brilliant pass, but incredibly his finish didn’t even threaten the target.
So 4-1 it finished in Rangers favour, but this was a very, very poor performance from Dunfermline. The only two who could possibly have mustered pass marks were the substitutes Brewster and Byrne. Very little was offered by the midfield, with X-certificate stuff from some.
Only two more games before the big one at Hampden on 10 April, and Jimmy Calderwood will be looking for a lot more from his charges when they take on the in-form Livingston at the City Stadium in the next game.
Rangers: Klos, Hutton, Khizanishvili, Frank de Boer, Ball, Rae, Malcolm, Hughes, Lovenkrands (Burke 62), Mols (Fetai 72), Ronald de Boer (Thompson 45)
Rangers Subs: McGregor, Vanoli
Rangers Goal Scorers: Hutton (2), Lovenkrands (11), Ronald de Boer (26), Mols (28)
Rangers Yellow Cards: Hutton, Fetai
Ladbrokes Championship: Saturday 22nd April, Dunfermline v Falkirk kick off 3.00pm