Rangers moved into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Challenge Cup at Ibrox on Tuesday night with a 2-0 win over Berwick Rangers – but this tie was an almighty struggle at times with the Light Blues taking fully an hour to break the deadlock.
Manager Ally McCoist made three changes from the side that won so convincingly at Airdrie – two of them enforced.
Dean Shiels and David Templeton came in for the ineligible Nicky Law and Jon Daly and Emilson Cribari returned from injury in place of Kyle McAusland. Shiels formed a Northern Ireland strike-force with Andy Little whilst Cribari partnered Lee McCulloch in central defence with Sebastien Faure moving to right-back.
The Ibrox men started off in a positive fashion without really threatening the Berwick goal. Indeed it was all of fifteen minutes before visiting goalkeeper Paul Grant was tested, comfortably holding an Andy Little effort from the edge of the area.
A Robbie Crawford run in 26 minutes almost produced a bizarre opener – his low ball into the box being missed by both Andy Little (who just failed to connect) and ‘keeper Paul Grant and trundled towards the net only to be scooped clear on the line by Michael Dunlop.
There was a distinct lack of penetration in the Rangers attacks – the creativity of Nicky Law being badly missed – although ten minutes later Crawford and Little again combined to more telling effect when Robbie’s run down the right produced a cross which Andy met with a half-volley only for Grant to be equal to the task.
A less than impressive first-half ended goalless – but no doubt with some strong words from Mr. McCoist ringing in their ears – Rangers set about putting matters to right after the restart.
A Dean Shiels cross three minutes in found Sebastien Faure whose overhead kick was turned round the post by Paul Grant.
Berwick were operating a packed defence with little offered in attack – yet substitute Josh Morris almost broke the deadlock with virtually his side’s first shot on target in 58 minutes when his low twenty-yard drive was held by Scott Gallacher.
Dean Shiels had put in a good shift for almost an hour – but it was his substitution by Barrie McKay that finally broke the deadlock within seconds as the youngster went through following a Faure/Little move, the youngster cleverly clipping the ball past the advancing goalkeeper.
Suddenly the pressure was off Rangers – and two minutes later Andy Little added a second with a bullet header from a Faure cross.
The Ulsterman certainly likes playing against Berwick – that goal was his sixth in five games during the past twelve months.