Narrow win for Rangers
Rangers kept their title hopes alive with a narrow 1-0 win over Falkirk at Westfield thanks to an early Kris Boyd goal - but it was a grim struggle on a day of strong, blustery winds at the Falkirk Stadium.
When Rangers last visited Westfield on the opening day of the season they were in crisis mode, having suffered a catastrophic Champions League defeat four days earlier at the hands of FBK Kaunas. Eight months on, little had changed...
Manager Walter Smith has not had his troubles to seek this week - and this afternoon he made five changes to the side that capitulated so lamentably at ibrox a fortnight ago with Neil Alexander, Madjid Bougherra, David Weir, John Fleck and Nacho Novo replacing Allan McGregor, Christian Dailly, Barry Ferguson, DaMarcus Beasley and the injured Kyle Lafferty against a Falkirk side that contained two former Rangers players - namely Steven Pressley and Neil McCann.
The Ibrox men had emerged with a narrow 1-0 victory on 9 August thanks to an Andrius Velicka goal - and today the Lithuanian Internationalist was named as a substitute.
If ever Rangers needed an early goal it was today - and they got it in eight minutes when Kris Boyd knocked home a Novo cutback after the little Spaniard had used his pace to create space on the left.
The home side may be bottom of the SPL, but they were certainly not going to give this one up without a fight - and Scott Arfield broke forward to test Alexander with a 25-yard shot that the goalkeeper held in nineteen minutes.
The remainder of the half was devoid of goalscoring opportunities although both sides were committed to attack - and at the interval the Ibrox men were comfortable with their one-goal lead.
Steven Naismith replaced Fleck just before the hour - and four minutes later Boyd shot over from point-blank range after Pedro Mendes' corner had been headed down to him by Bougherra.
Rangers suffered yet another injury blow when Lee McCulloch limped off to be replaced by Maurice Edu in 74 minutes.
Six minutes later Mendes almost sealed the win when his 25-yard shot from a Naismith knock-down flashed over.
Falkirk had a strong penalty claim ignored by Referee Iain Brines in 82 minutes when Steven Whittaker appeared to bundle Michael Higdon to the ground as he homed in on a Gerard Aafjes cross.
Two minutes later Velicka came on for his first outing in eight months when he replaced Boyd.
The closing stages were nervy for the Ibrox men as the 'Bairns' pressed for an equaliser - but with Weir and Bougherra outstanding at the heart of the visitors' defence Rangers held on for a crucial win.
Afterwards a relieved Walter Smith reflected:
"I'm delighted to win. We've played better recently and not won. David Weir played well at the back when under pressure. It was good to get back to football after recent days."
FALKIRK Mallo; Scobbie, Pressley, Bullen (Aafjes 67), McNamara; Arfield, Cregg (Higdon 63), McBride (Moffat 79), O'Brien; Finnigan, McCann
UNUSED SUBS Olejnik, Holden, Riera, Mitchell
RANGERS Alexander; Whittaker, Bougherra, Weir, Papac; Davis, McCulloch (Edu 74), Mendes, Fleck (Naismith 58); Boyd (Velicka 84), Novo
UNUSED SUBS Smith, Dailly, Aaron, Little
REFEREE Iain Brines