Football: Rangers made to fight

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The Independent Online
Dunfermline Athletic. .0

Rangers. . . . . . . . 2

THE holders of the Scottish League Cup, Rangers, displayed the fortitude that has become their hallmark in overcoming several anxious moments before progressing to the quarter- finals.

Walter Smith's side slid comfortably into a 2-0 lead after 21 minutes of controlled, powerful football, but the First Division side, Dunfermline, replied with a spirited second-half fight.

Whatever their feelings at the end, the Rangers supporters were denied the sight they want to see - Duncan Ferguson's first goal for their side. The pounds 4m man, playing only his second competitive game, demonstrated a lack of match fitness in wasting two second-half chances.

The Ibrox side made a surprise inclusion by fielding David Robertson, their full-back who has been out of action with a knee injury since last season's Tennents Scottish Cup final.

Rangers were in no mood to let Dunfermline spring any early surprises, Trevor Steven opening proceedings in the fifth minute. Mark Hateley knocked down a long throw- in towards the midfielder, whose shot from near the penalty spot deceived Norrie McCathie and Craig Robertson before rolling slowly over the line.

The referee denied Rangers a seemingly clear-cut penalty when Alexei Mikhailichenko was tripped in the penalty area by Robertson, but the Ukrainian gained a measure of satisfaction by setting up Ian Ferguson for the second goal after 21 minutes: a finely-judged square pass and Ferguson had space to move forward before shooting powerfully into the net off a post from around 20 yards.

The Cup holders came close to conceding a goal before the interval when only a fine save by Ally Maxwell denied Ivo Den Bieman. Maxwell kept his goal intact with a second spectacular save on the hour, a one-handed block from a Hamish French shot.

Dunfermline Athletic (4-4-2): Hamilton; Bowes, Baillie, C Robertson, McCathie; French (Laing, 81), Smith, Davies, Preston; O'Boyle (Cunnington, 81), Den Bieman. Substitute not used: Hillcoat (gk).

Rangers (4-4-2): Maxwell; Wishart, Gough, Pressley, D Robertson; Durrant, I Ferguson, Steven, Mikhailichenko; D Ferguson, Hateley. Substitutes not used: Murray, Morrow, Scott (gk).

Referee: H Williamson (Renfrew).

Rangers' John Brown is to have a back operation and will be out of action for three or four weeks.