McLeish's men in form for cup meeting with Celtic

Livingston 1 - Rangers 4
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The Independent Football

Rangers maintained their watchful vigil on Celtic yesterday as they swept Livingston aside to remain four points behind in the Scottish Premier League title race.

Rangers maintained their watchful vigil on Celtic yesterday as they swept Livingston aside to remain four points behind in the Scottish Premier League title race.

A handsome victory at Almondvale Stadium raised the self-esteem of Alex McLeish's side ahead of another Old Firm encounter, with the Glasgow clubs meeting in the CIS Cup on Wednesday night at Ibrox.

Rangers even managed to achieve the success without their Croatian striker Dado Prso, who was left out to protect the eight stitches put in a forehead gash. His replacement, Steven Thompson, helped himself to his second goal in as many games and McLeish said, with no pun intended, that "he has given me a selection headache" for the cup game.

After the five-goal thrashing of Aberdeen last weekend, Rangers were given no encouragement in the first half by a stubborn Livingston side whose defensive organisation looked like paying off.

Peter Lovenkrands and Nacho Novo had both squandered chances before the Dane atoned in the 37th minute. Jean-Alain Boumsong met Fernando Ricksen's corner and his header was hooked in by the left boot of Lovenkrands.

Eleven minutes into the second half, Rangers doubled their lead. Another Ricksen corner picked out the unmarked Novo and he guided in a right-foot finish past goalkeeper Roddy McKenzie.

However, Livingston quickly hit back. Just four minutes later, Burton O'Brien caused problems in the box, Stefan Klos contributed a rare error of failing to gather the ball and Craig Easton's overhead kick dropped into the empty net.

Jim Hamilton came close to netting an equaliser with a looping header but more defensive frailty ensured that Livingston were soon trailing by two goals again.

Yet another Ricksen corner was met by the powerful Thompson, whose downward header beat a clutch of Livingston players and McKenzie.

Still, Klos was required to produce his habitual eye-catching save by touching a net- bound O'Brien shot wide before Hamed Namouchi struck Rangers' fourth seven minutes from the end.

The midfielder ghosted onto Gregory Vignal's fine pass and guided a cool finish beyond McKenzie. "It was good to see the goals spread around the side," stated a satisfied McLeish.

Goals: Lovenkrands (37) 0-1; Novo (56) 0-2; Easton (60) 1-2; Thompson (67) 1-3; Namouchi (83) 1-4.

Livingston (4-5-1): McKenzie; McNamee, Rubio, Dorado, Stanic (Boyack, 37); Brittain, Easton, Snowdon (Libbra, 58), McLaughin, O'Brien; Hamilton (Lilley, 77). Substitutes not used: Meldrum (gk), Kernaghan, McMenamin, Snodgrass.

Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Hutton, Andrews, Boumsong, Vignal; Ricksen (Rae, 74), Malcolm, Namouchi, Lovenkrands; Novo (Arveladze, 74), Thompson. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Ball, Hughes, Ross, Burke.

Referee: D McDonald.

Booked: Livingston: Easton. Rangers: Ricksen.

Man of the match: Thompson.

Attendance: 8,789.

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