Rangers 4 St Mirren 0: Whittaker at double as Rangers cruise on

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The Independent Football

Steven Whittaker doubled his tally for the season yesterday to send Rangers seven points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League and heap the pressure on title rivals Celtic who face Falkirk today. "I'll feel a lot better if we still have that lead on Monday morning," said Rangers manager, Walter Smith.

"We were just delighted that we managed to win because I felt it could have been an awkward game today." As well as Whittaker's double, Chris Burke and Kris Boyd were also on the scoresheet as a fluent Rangers eased to a 4-0 victory over 10-man St Mirren who had Will Haining sent off.

Allan McGregor, Barry Ferguson and David Weir were all back in the Rangers team following the midweek Scottish Cup win over East Stirling. The changes though failed to produce the rousing start the Ibrox faithful demanded and it was St Mirren who carved out the first real chance. An Ian Maxwell cross found Billy Mehmet in front of goal but his header was touched just wide by the goalkeeper, McGregor. There was a further moment of concern for the hosts when Haining clattered into Jean-Claude Darcheville but he was soon back on his feet. Haining picked up a yellow card for his troubles.

Slowly but surely though Rangers found their stride and restored the colour to their supporters' cheeks on 27 minutes. Darcheville released Ferguson down the left and the captain cut the ball across the face of goal to Burke who fired home from the six-yard box.

Haining's earlier booking for the foul on Darcheville proved doubly costly when he picked up his second yellow card for hauling down Alan Hutton with half an hour gone and Rangers then compounded their troubles. Darcheville fed Boyd who rifled over Chris Smith and into the back of the net.

Whittaker helped himself to Rangers' third when he squeezed a shot through several black and white jerseys and past the Saints goalkeeper. The pattern continued after the break with Burke pouncing on a Darcheville through-ball and cutting inside only to drag his shot wide.

But it was Whittaker who added the exclamation mark by grabbing his second goal with nine minutes to go. He ghosted in from the left and ran on to Boyd's lay-off before dispatching a powerful effort into Smith's top corner, the goalkeeper only able to look on in awe.

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