Unconvincing Rangers rely on Boyd to wing it

Rangers 2 Aberdeen 0
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The Independent Football

Jean-Claude Darcheville's first goal of the season set Rangers on their way to victory, and Kris Boyd's 13th made it certain. For long stretches it was a slog, and Rangers might well have seized the initiative earlier if it hadn't been for a fine save by the visitors' Jamie Langfield from one of his own team-mates.

But ultimately it was business as usual – Aberdeen have not won at Ibrox for 17 years – and given that Rangers were missing four regular starters, any win to keep Rangers on Celtic's trail was likely to satisfy their manager, Walter Smith.

"We've still got a fair way to go before we can lose players and still play how we'd like," he said. "Losing four players is a big thing for us." He said the outcome was thus "pleasing".

The missing quartet were striker Kenny Miller, midfielder Steve Davis and defenders Sasa Papac and Madjid Bougherra. In their absence, Smith had to commandeer a midfielder-cum-forward, Lee McCulloch to defend, and started with three strikers, Kyle Lafferty joining Darcheville and Boyd.

"We had to work hard for the win," Smith added. "We took time to settle and it wasn't until the second half we started to impose ourselves. We got the [first] goal and that was obviouslya turning point. When we got the second I wouldn't say we looked comfortable but we were in control."

The first minute was deceptive – it contained a decent Rangers chance – Boyd scooped his shot high over the bar from an angle after chasing Pedro Mendes' long pass. Ten minutes passed before any other incident of note, and that was when the ponderous referee,Craig Thomson, decided Andy Considine's handling of the ball was accidental and therefore Rangers did not get the penalty they demanded.

Too many passes, like important calls, were just out of reach. Darcheville's cross from the right was just too far ahead of Boyd. Charlie Adam's ball to Barry Ferguson was similarly overhit. Boyd made contact with a Lafferty cross but the ball flew wide, as it did from Ferguson's head after Darcheville's cutback.

Aberdeen's Derek Young elicited a good save from Allan McGregor following a cross from the tireless Sone Aluko, a persistent threat. Then on the cusp of half-time, Lee Mair's backward header was heading into his own goal, forcing a fine reaction save from Langfield.

Rangers started the second period with more coherence. Mendes combining in the game's most fluid move with Boyd and Darcheville to set up the latter for a shot which was saved. The first goal arrived seven minutes after the break, via a corner from the right, taken by Adam. Boyd got a foot to it among a tangle of players and stabbed it towards the goal. Darcheville applied the touch that made sure it got over the line.

Aberdeen came close to an equaliser 15 minutes later after more good work by Aluko, who turned McCulloch twice as he weaved his way into the box. McCulloch's close attention paid off when he stopped the attack by conceding a corner. That led to a headed effort from Zander Diamond, cleared from the line by Mendes.

A minute later Rangers were two ahead, their goal again coming from a corner, which Lafferty appeared to flick on with a backheel. In a crowdedbox, Boyd bundled home at the far post. It was his last touch of the day before being substituted with a sore shin sustained in the first half.

Aberdeen's manager, Jimmy Calderwood, was magnanimous in defeat, albeit describing both the Rangers goals as "scrappy", which they were. "I thought for 60 minutes we did well,"€ he said. "We dominated the first half without creating too much, but we can't moan. We'll play worse than that and win. We can take a lot of positives from the game."