Jelavic leads Rangers to laboured victory

St Johnstone 0 Rangers 2: Ray of hope for McCoist as champions land first League win of the season

A routine victory will never have felt so significant to Ally McCoist. The opening results of his reign had exposed the Rangers manager to an anxious scrutiny, and he needed this win as a means to regroup. Even with a two-goal advantage, and into the last 10 minutes of the game, he yelled in exasperation at Steven Davis for some misdemeanour, and the impression is still of a new manager trying to impose himself.

There were reasons for optimism, not least the steady display of Dorin Goian, the tall, angular Romanian centre-back who was making his debut. A commanding presence who was confident on the ball, Goian brought some rigour to a defence that had conceded basic goals in their first two games. Lee Wallace was dynamic at left-back and Davis offered astuteness in midfield, but otherwise Rangers lacked the tempo and the poise to be formidable.

"You draw a game, then lose one, and people start to ask questions, that's the nature of the beast," McCoist said. "We've been talking about a lot of negatives in the last few days but there were a lot of positives to take from this. We were sharper, stronger, more direct. There's still a long way to go, but this was a small step in the right direction."

Even this early into the season, Rangers looked a little world-weary. They laboured at times, which told of a team not yet convinced of their own merits. The fragile confidence could be seen in the way Maurice Edu stumbled with the ball and Steven Whittaker surrendered possession in the penalty area, which almost resulted in Cillian Sheridan scoring with a header.

St Johnstone might twice have scored, with Murray Davidson seeing one shot tipped wide by Allan McGregor, the Rangers goalkeeper, and another spin across the face of the goal. But they were isolated inci-dents, and the visitors' main concern was finding the means to break down St Johnstone – an organised, disciplined side. Rangers' performance was functional, and relied on the physical might of NikicaJelavic and the deft promptings of Davis and Steven Naismith.

There was simplicity in theway Rangers eventually expressed their ambition. They exposed St Johnstone with well-delivered crosses, and from Sasa Papac's ball in, Jelavic headed on target only for Peter Enckelman, the St Johnstone goalkeeper, to make a dramatic save.

The home side looked vulnerable in the centre of defence and the next delivery, from Lee Wallace's free-kick, allowed Naismith to steer a header beyond the goalkeeper.

"It's not been a great week in terms of results," said Naismith. "We knew we had a point to prove and we're a bit relieved to get off the mark forthe season."

The goal was a source of comfort for the visitors and after the interval they played with more assurance. In particular, Naismith and Jelavic linked smartly, and they combined for the second goal. St Johnstone were culpable, losing the ball on the edge of the Rangers penalty area, but the counterattack was swift, ending with Naismith sliding the ball into Jelavic's path and the Croatian driving a low shot past Enckelman.

Rangers took the opportunity to settle on their lead, pulling Naismith back into midfield and conserving their energy for Wednesday night's Champions' League third qualifying round second-leg tie in Malmo, when they will attempt to overcome a 1-0 deficit. McCoist spoke afterwards of his hope that David Goodwillie might yet become a Rangers player rather than move to Blackburn Rovers from Dundee United, but the overriding sense was one of satisfaction.

They needed to win this game, and would have won it more comfortably if they had converted one of a number of half-chances towards the end. But there was still hope for them to take from the performance.

"Rangers were a land-of-giants team, with a real physical presence," said Derek McInnes, the St Johnstone manager. "They got the job done. We've got things to address."

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn