Rangers reach top but miss their peak

Rangers 3 - Dunfermline Athletic 0
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The Independent Online

Rangers soothed the bruising inflicted upon their pride by last weekend's Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Celtic by regaining a tenuous hold on the leadership of the Scottish Premier League.

Rangers soothed the bruising inflicted upon their pride by last weekend's Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Celtic by regaining a tenuous hold on the leadership of the Scottish Premier League.

Fine finishes from Steven Thompson, Marvin Andrews and Alex Rae lifted the Ibrox side above their Old Firm rivals on goal difference but this sterile performance would not have had Celtic - who play at Aberdeen today - quaking in their boots.

Ibrox has not been a happy hunting ground for Dunfermline. They have to go back to 1967 to recall the last clean sheet, and 10 successive defeats in Govan meant there would have been an ominous feeling in their stomachs when Thompson provided Rangers with their lead after just six minutes.

The Scotland forward was enjoying a rare outing at the expense of Dado Prso, who was rested, and Thompson seized his chance to enhance his prospects when Hamed Namouchi's break down the right opened up Dunfermline. The midfielder's low cross was deflected into Thompson's path by Andrius Skerla and he whipped a shot past Derek Stillie from six yards.

Yet, the advantage did not provide Rangers with the confidence to tear Dunfermline apart. The game degenerated into a turgid affair as the visitors took the sting out of Alex McLeish's team.

Indeed, Barry Nicholson twice came close to inflicting an equaliser on his old club before Stillie denied Thompson his second goal as the striker pounced on Andy Tod's ill-judged headed pass back.

However, there was no reprieve eight minutes before half-time when Stillie lost out in his physical duel with Thompson. The goalkeeper was too concerned about the striker at Fernando Ricksen's corner and weakly punched the ball straight to Andrews, who rifled in his shot from close range.

Rangers could have scored again before the interval, but Bojan Djordjic conjured up the miss of the season. Ricksen unselfishly drew Stillie only to see Djordjic fail to find the empty net and strike the bar.

Sadly, the second half followed a similar pattern. Rangers monopolised possession, though without any great flair, while Dunfermline were simply content at damage limitation.

Rangers ought to have stretched their lead just before the hour when Djordjic delivered a menacing free-kick across the face of goal. Thompson's flick took it to the back post, where Ricksen somehow missed with a stooping header from point-blank range.

However, Rangers did collect their third goal in the 64th minute. Rae is the least likely candidate to execute a header, but he had the advantage of Andrews softening up Dunfermline with a comical miss, the defenders switching off after Andrews' fresh-air volley, and when Ricksen returned the ball into the box Rae's well-timed run was rewarded with a finish that looped beyond Stillie.

Dunfermline could have reduced the deficit when Jesper Christiansen threaded a pass into the clever run of Gary Dempsey but Grégory Vignal helped the unprotected Stefan Klos with a brave block.

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