Pressure lifts on messiah turned pariah

Rangers 2 Dunfermline Ath 0
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By Phil Gordon


Half-time: 0-0 Att: 48,218

When you have had the sort of week Paul Le Guen has, you will thank the heavens even for the smallest merci. The pressure lifted slightly on the Rangers manager yesterday as his much-criticised players laboured to summon up a win over Dunfermline Athletic.

The Scottish Premier League's bottom side have won only one of their 51 contests with Rangers, so this was hardly unexpected. However, as a mission statement, after the recent turmoil, the message was, "Ibrox, we still have a problem." Second-half goals from Kris Boyd and Steven Smith masked an insipid display. "Yes, it was a relief," said Le Guen. "We did not play fantastic but after the difficult week, it was good enough for today."

When Le Guen was unveiled in the summer as the successor to Alex McLeish, aspirations around Ibrox soared. The man who led Lyon to three successive French titles was seen as the Messiah but few could predict that he would become a pariah instead. The Frenchman has overseen the worst start to a season in 23 years. Adrift of Celtic in the championship race, elimination from the CIS Cup by St Johnstone of the first division in midweek was the last straw for several hundred who demonstrated outside the ground.

Dunfermline ought to have been the perfect rebound game. The Fife club are bottom of the table and without a win here in 34 years. Rangers' nerves were visible. Their limited efforts on goal in the first half allowed Dunfermline to gather more confidence as the contest wore on.

Charlie Adam did have a shot deflected wide by the head of Stephen Simmons and then a header which came close, but Dunfermline's Owen Morrison, who scored the goal that gave his team a draw against Rangers at East End Park, wasted Simmons' good work by shooting over from just inside the box.

As a Karl Svensson header drifted wide and then Dado Prso failed to profit from Scott Morrison's poor pass back to Roddy McKenzie, the interval came with barely a murmur of protest from the home fans. Rangers knew they had to step up the tempo in the second half and Adam and Prso both came close with headers. However, Dunfermline sent a shiver around Ibrox when Stevie Crawford broke clear just before the hour and forced Allan McGregor to beat his shot away.

Two minutes later, Rangers broke the deadlock. McKenzie had just denied Barry Ferguson, but the goalkeeper could do nothing when Boyd gathered Prso's knockdown, turned his marker, Souleymane Bamba, and fired a left-foot shot past McKenzie.

The relief around Ibrox was tangible. Scott Morrison came close to equalising with a raking shot that crept wide but in the 77th minute Rangers finally killed off the game. A neat passing move ended with Prso laying the ball into the path of Smith and the left-back thrashed a shot beyond McKenzie.