Rangers stay on track as they beat Wigan Athletic at Ibrox
Rangers continued their winning start to the new campaign with a 3-0 defeat of Championship side Wigan Athletic in an Ibrox friendly on Sunday with all three goals coming in a much-improved second-half.
As expected Steven Gerrard rang the changes from Croatia with Jak Alnwick, Kyle Bradley, Andy Halliday, Daniel Candeias, Ross McCrorie, Greg Docherty and Glenn Middleton coming in for Allan McGregor, Niko Katic, Jon Flannagan, Jamie Murphy, Ryan Jack, Lassana Coulibaly and Ryan Kent.
The game had a quiet opening although Rangers, with two youngsters – namely Bradley and Middleton - making their first starts, were making the early running.
One player who was surely keen to make an impact was Greg Docherty, whom Gerrard had suggested might be going out on loan.
The midfielder came close to opening the scoring in the 22nd minute when he dragged his shot from the edge of the area across the face of goal and wide.
Any thoughts that this was a low key ‘friendly’ fixture disappeared just before the half-hour mark when Samy Morsy committed a shocking foul on Daniel Candeias.
Morsy had already been involved in an earlier incident with Docherty and was yellow-carded for this second offence by referee Bobby Madden.
Had this been a competitive fixture then the colour of the card could easily have been of a different one – but Rangers could also have done without Morelos becoming unnecessarily involved and himself receiving a booking.
There were precious few clear goal-scoring opportunities throughout the remainder of the first-half – although James Tavernier did threaten just before the break with a 22-yard free-kick that visiting goalkeeper Christian Walton held.
Wes Foderingham and Niko Katic were both introduced at the interval with Alnwick and Bradley stepping down – and whether by accident or design the game almost immediately burst into life with Middleton firing over from a Morelos lay-off two minutes after the restart.
Rangers were now much hungrier than before – perhaps due to a half-time team-talk by the manager – four minutes later a Morelos cutback almost forced Alex Bruce into an own goal, the substitute relieved to see his sliced attempted clearance turned wide by Walton.
The opener was merely delayed however – Tavernier finding Candeias wide right, the winger’s cross cleverly headed home by Morelos.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 when a corner from the outstanding Middleton found Katic at the back post, the defender making no mistake with a downward header.
Roma loannee Umar Sadiq had replaced Morelos in the 55th minute – and the forward was soon impressing with his pace and running power.
Indeed, the Nigerian had a hand in goal number three just after the hour when a Candeias cross spun into the air but as Sadiq went for the ball it was Chey Dunkley who had the misfortune to head into his own net.
Northern Ireland international Lee Hodson came on for Tavernier 60 seconds later – but there was to be one more talking-point for the 28,779 crowd when the referee awarded the visitors a contentious penalty on 77 minutes for Middleton’s tackle on substitute Jamie Walker.
It looked a soft award – but Will Grigg’s spot-kick was in any event saved by Foderingham.