Chris Burke repaid Alex McLeish's faith last night as the teenager steered Rangers into the semi-final of the CIS Insurance Cup with a sublime goal that gave the Ibrox crowd a glimpse of the future.
An audacious lob on his first start had to keep those supporters warm until Egil Ostenstad and Michael Mols weighed in with late second-half goals that added to an unrealistic scoreline for the holders, who found St Johnstone hard to break down.
McLeish had given in to the demands of supporters to blood his young winger Burke, who had only a series of cameo roles to his name but showed why he is highly rated after just 15 minutes when he put the holders in front with a breathtaking goal.
Burke picked up the ball just inside the St Johnstone half and ran at their defence. He then made the hesitant visitors pay for not closing him down with a chip shot over the goalkeeper, Kevin Cuthbert, from just outside the penalty area.
The youthful feat was given a standing ovation by the Ibrox crowd, but nothing else came close to exciting them in the first half.
Burke produced another menacing shot at the end of a tricky run, while Peter Lovenkrands threatened on the opposite flank. But the closest Rangers came to another goal was when Emerson curled a free-kick just over the crossbar minutes before half-time.
St Johnstone enjoyed a fine passage of possession football in the second half as Simon Donnelly and Paul Bernard - two former Scotland internationals - began to pull the strings in midfield.
However, their optimism was shattered when Rangers were allowed to snatch a second goal just before the hour-mark, as Paolo Vanoli delivered a cross from the left that was met by Ostenstad and the former Blackburn Rovers striker headed past Cuthbert.
Nuno Capucho then replaced Ostenstad and came close with a header, but the deficit would have been cut had Allan McGregor not produced a great save from MacDonald's header.
However, the final word went to Mols who clipped in the third in the last minute from Stephen Hughes' cutback.
Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor; Ricksen, Khizanishvili, Malcolm, Vanoli; Emerson, Hughes, Lovenkrands; Burke (Ross, 84), Mols, Ostenstad (Capucho, 69). Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Hutton, Gibson.
St Johnstone (4-4-2): Cuthbert; J Robertson, Dods, Maxwell, Forsyth; McLaughlin, Bernard, M Robertson (Stevenson, 35), MacDonald; Parker (Paateleinen, 71), Donnelly. Substitutes not used: Nelson (gk), Hay, Stevenson, Malone.
Referee: D McDonald.Reuse content