Rangers' season horribilis continued yesterday as this embarrassing exit to struggling Dunfermline produced the shock result of the third round of the Scottish Cup.
Technically, this was no giant-killing. Rangers have done nothing to merit the giant tag for a while. Dunfermline are also in the same division, albeit anchored at the basement of the Scottish Premier League. But it was a scalp none the less, and further damning evidence that just because Rangers have got rid of Paul Le Guen as manager, their woes will not disappear as quickly.
Fielding a side ravaged by injury - a dozen first-team squad players were out - Dunfermline took a 3-0 lead before the second half had barely got under way through Jim Hamilton, Stephen Simmons and Phil McGuire. The superb Owen Morrison set up all three. Kris Boyd scored two second-half goals in 15 minutes as Rangers finally hit their stride but the threat of a sustained comeback withered.
Ian Durrant, the former Rangers player and stand-in manager, said before the tie that just one match in charge would allow him to die happy. Not this game, which had purgatory written all over it. Le Guen's successors - probably Walter Smith and Ally McCoist, to be confirmed this week - face a major task to restore the Light Blues into a major force again.
The Scottish Football Association's chief executive, David Taylor, said yesterday that Rangers have now contacted the SFA about hiring Smith, the Scotland manager. "We will be having discussions with Walter tomorrow," Taylor added.
It is possible that Smith could continue in charge of Scotland, who currently head their Euro 2008 qualifying group, while mentoring McCoist to take sole charge of Rangers later. Of the prospect of Smith staying as Scotland manager for now, while also working for Rangers, Taylor said: "In the short term it would save us major disruption."
Dunfermline's reward for winning is a home tie in the fourth round against Heart of Midlothian, the Cup holders, who eased to a 4-0 win at Stranraer on Saturday. The pick of the other fourth-round ties include Celtic travelling to Livingston, and Aberdeen or Hibernian (who play on Wednesday) hosting last season's runners-up, Gretna. Non-league Deveronvale, who beat Elgin City 5-4 on Saturday, host Partick Thistle.
All Dunfermline's goals yesterday were attributable to bad defending, but the hosts were lively and deserved their win. Owen Morrison crossed over the heads of an immobile back-line to pick out Hamilton in space for the opener. Morrison then produced a poked cross to Simmons for the second, the midfielder being allowed two shots to score. The third goal, a header by McGuire, was delivered from a corner.
Rangers had chances before they scored but first-half headers by Karl Svensson and Alan Hutton were blocked on the line, Nacho Novo had a shot deflected and Boyd fluffed a close-range shot.
Boyd's first goal arrived from a sweet move involving the reinstated Barry Ferguson, and Gavin Rae, who now holds the club captaincy. The second was a header from an Ian Murray cross. It was not enough.
"Poor defending cost us the game, and it's been happening all season - shocking," said Durrant.
Goals: Hamilton (17) 1-0; Simmons (29) 2-0; McGuire (46) 3-0; Boyd (54) 3-1; Boyd (68) 3-2.
Dunfermline Athletic (4-4-2): McKenzie; Ross, McGuire, Wilson, S Morrison; O'Brien (Bamba, 76), Young, Simmons, O Morrison (Woods, 67); Crawford, Hamilton (Daquin, 83). Substitutes not used: Murdoch (gk), Tod.
Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Hutton, Rodriguez (Burke, 34), Svensson, Murray; Rae, Hemdani, Ferguson, Adam (Buffel, 64); Novo, Boyd. Substitutes not used: Gallacher (gk), Lennon, Papac.
Referee: I Brines.
Booked: Dunfermline: Young, Wilson, Simmons. Rangers: Boyd, Adam, Novo, Hutton.
Man of the match: O Morrison.
Motherwell v Morton
Dunfermline v Hearts
Inverness CT v Dundee United or St Mirren
Falkirk v St Johnstone or Ayr United
Deveronvale v Partick Thistle
Dundee or Queen of the South v Cowdenbeath or Brechin City
Aberdeen or Hibernian v Gretna
Livingston v Celtic
Ties to be played 3-4 FebruaryReuse content