Charlie Adam's early goal yesterday maintained Walter Smith's 100 per cent record since returning as the Rangers manager in a victory that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests and cements Rangers' second place in the table. They remain 17 points adrift of Celtic, who mauled St Mirren 5-1 on Saturday.
A fortnight ago Rangers came to this same venue in the Scottish Cup under the caretaker guidance of Ian Durrant and lost 3-2. Nervy, lacking in heart, and played off the park, they were a shambles. Yesterday, with 36-year-old David Weir making a solid debut in central defence, they were confident, organised and workmanlike, if a bit dull. Nacho Novo stood out for his industry up front, and Adam for his work on the left of a midfield where Barry Ferguson was steady rather than spectacular.
Dunfermline's Adam Hamill caught the eye when he made his debut in the second half. The teenager, an England youth international, is on loan from Liverpool and twice created chances for an equaliser. The best of them was headed over from point blank range by Jim Hamilton with eight minutes remaining.
"I'm very pleased with the result. We had to work extremely hard for it," said Smith, who added that his side "had handled certain aspects better than earlier in the season." This was a reference to his defence, which was more solid with Weir at its heart: "We've got a young back line and his experience will help."
One absentee from the Rangers squad was Jeremy Clement. Smith said this was because of flu rather than speculation that the French midfielder is about to move to either Paris St-Germain or back to Lyon. Both clubs' managers, Paul Le Guen and Gérard Houllier, have made inquiries.
The first chance yesterday was a Stevie Crawford shot, easily held in the eighth minute. From there, Rangers broke, and Novo crossed for Adam to score with an angled drive from the left side of the six-yard box.
Hamilton then had a long-range shot saved, a Ferguson volley was blocked at the other end, and Novo had a shot saved. Just before half-time, Chris Burke wasted a long slaloming run by blasting over rather than passing at the end of it.
The best chances in the second half fell to Ferguson, whose shot was parried, Novo - brilliantly denied by a one-handed paw at the ball by Dorus de Vries - and then Hamilton, who should have levelled from Hamill's assist.
Goal: Adam (9) 0-1.
Dunfermline Athletic (4-4-2): De Vries; Shields, McGuire, Wilson, Morrison; Ryan (Hamill, h-t), Ross (McIntyre, 77), Mason, O'Brien (Muirhead, 77); Crawford, Hamilton. Substitutes not used: McKenzie (gk), McCunnie, Woods, Williamson.
Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Svensson, Weir, Murray; Burke (Buffel, 70), Ferguson, Hemdani, Adam; Novo (Sebo, 90), Boyd. Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Papac, Rae, Lennon, Lowing.
Referee: J Underhill (Scotland).
Booked: Dunfermline McGuire, Ross, Hamilton, O'Brien; Rangers Ferguson, Novo.
Man of the match: Novo.
Attendance: 7,868.Reuse content