Rangers Reach Summit

Last updated : 05 January 2008 By Southside Johnny
Rangers returned to their rightful place at the summit
of the SPL with an emphatic 2-0 win over Dundee United
at Ibrox this afternoon, a success that was much more
comfortable than the scoreline would suggest, with
goals from Steven Naismith and Barry Ferguson.

The Tannadice men were first-footers to Ibrox for the
New Year, Rangers' first game of 2008 - and Manager
Walter Smith fielded an unchanged side from Easter

A one-minute round of applause was held prior to
kick-off in memory of the late Motherwell captain Phil
O'Donnell, although many inside the ground preferred
the more traditional and dignified silence.

The home side struck early, Naismith's header from a
Chris Burke cross finding the net despite the valiant
effort of United goalkeeper Euan McLean, who got a
hand to the ball.

Rangers were dominating play, but there was at times a
lack of a cutting edge to their play that perhaps
indicated even in these early stages that the final
result would not reflect on the Light Blues'
overwhelming superiority.

One mazy run by Burke in 35 minutes culminated in a
twenty-yard drive that was touched wide by McLean,
then, from the resultant Burke corner,
Alan Hutton - cheered to the echo this afternoon -
headed inches over.

The second goal was merely delayed however - Ferguson
heading home from a Burke cross in 39 minutes, Referee
Mike McCurry overruling an offside flag from linesman
Gary Sweeney after consultation.

Sixty seconds later Naismith's penetrating run saw him
lay the ball off to Ferguson whose effort was blocked
by McLean.

The half ended with Rangers in total control, and
there would be no perceptable change after the restart
with the Ibrox men retaining possession comfortably.

Despite this however it was midway through the
second-half before McLean was truly extended again -
Hutton releasing Burke whose run ended with the
'keeper blocking his effort.

Nacho Novo made a welcome return in seventy minutes
when he replaced Naismith, then eleven minutes later
Kris Boyd substituted for Daniel Cousin.

The Scots striker almost made an immediate impact when
he latched onto a Hutton pass only to see his initial
shot blocked then his second attempt parried by

Rangers had stepped up a gear in the closing stages,
seeking a third goal to send the 48,559 spectators
home happy. It almost came in 85 minutes when Ferguson
played a one-two with Boyd before seeing his
eighteen-yard shot touched over by McLean.

Three minutes later the Ibrox men had the perfect
opportunity to round off the win when awarded a
penalty after Willo Flood had barged Novo in the back
as he was poised to head home a Burke cross. Boyd took
the spot-kick, but saw his tame effort held at the
second attempt by McLean.

In the very next attack, Rangers had another strong
penalty claim when Hutton's cross was handled by Lee
Wilkie, but on this occasion Mike McCurry waved play

There was just time for one more attack - Burke's
cross finding Ferguson whose flick produced a superb
one-handed save from McLean.

The final whistle signalled Rangers' ascent to the SPL
leadership, and afterwards a contented Walter Smith

"It was a satisfying day for us. It's important to
keep winning - games in hand don't count for anything
if you don't win. We're settling down now - our
possession of the ball has been excellent in recent

Dundee United Manager Craig Levein was honest enough
to admit:

"We never looked like scoring. This was always going
to be a difficult game for us."

RANGERS McGregor; Hutton, Weir, Cuellar, Whittaker;
Burke, Hemdani, Ferguson, Thomson, Naismith (Novo 70);
Cousin (Boyd 81)
UNUSED SUBS Carroll, Papac, Adam, Furman, Efrem

DUNDEE UNITED McLean; Dillon (Swanson 42), Wilkie,
Dods, Grainger; Robson, Flood, Kerr, Gomis, Hunt;
Odhiambo (Conway 51)
UNUSED SUBS Zaluska, Robertson, Kenneth, Buaben,

REFEREE Mike McCurry

Attendance 48,559