THOMPSON ON THE MARK AS RANGERS EXTEND LEAD
Dundee 1 (Lovell 23)
Rangers go into the winter break with a three-point lead over Celtic following today's 3-1 win over Dundee at Ibrox, a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie between Aberdeen and Celtic meaning that the Ibrox men have extended their advantage in the title race.
New signing Steven Thompson made the perfect start after being introduced as a 60th minute substitute - netting the third and clinching goal with just nine
Rangers - wearing all white - made one change from the eleven that had won at Kilmarnock with Claudio Caniggia replacing the injured Shota Arveladze.
A one-minute silence in memory of the 1971 Ibrox Disaster was immaculately observed prior to kick-off.
Dundee made an impressive start, Gary Brady's shot from the edge of the penalty area being deflected inches wide of the target in the opening minute.
Three minutes later Bob Malcolm saw a 25-yard drive held by Julian Speroni.
After such a lively opening the game quietened considerably, the bitingly cold wind and driving rain no doubt having an effect on the atmosphere.
Speroni was again called into action in sixteen minutes when he held a Peter Lovenkrands twenty-yard drive from a Caniggia cross, then two minutes on used his legs to block Ronald De Boer's shot after Michael Mols had worked an opening for his fellow Dutchman.
The opening goal was however only delayed until the twentieth minute when De Boer's diagonal ball was taken in his stride by Barry Ferguson who calmly
slotted the ball home.
That strike lifted the atmosphere - but within three minutes Dundee were level when Fabian Caballero's cross-cum-shot somehow found Stuart Lovell at the back post, leaving Stefan Klos with no chance to prevent an equaliser.
Rangers should have regained the lead in 27 minutes when Mols went through on a Caniggia pass, rounding Speroni on the edge of the box only to shoot wide of the goal.
The Dundee 'keeper was certainly earning his keep at this stage of the proceedings - in 34 minutes he beat out a Lovenkrands drive from a Mols opening, yet seconds later almost gifted the home side a second goal when his attempted clearance cannoned off the back of Peter Lovenkrands into the path of De Boer who should certainly have done better than shoot wide of the target.
Rangers were in danger of squandering too many gilt-edged opportunities, a recurring fault this season, but De Boer did make amends in 43 minutes when
a swift move on the left saw Mols free Lovenkrands, a low cross being rifled home by the Dutch midfielder.
Ibrox legend Ally McCoist was introduced at the interval to make the Lottery draw, receiving massive acclaim from the 49,112 spectators.
Rangers kept up the pressure following the restart, Lovenkrands again being denied by Speroni in 56 minutes when his shot from a De Boer pass was turned
wide by the goalkeeper.
New signing Steven Thompson was introduced on the hour, replacing Claudio Caniggia, and within five minutes the former Dundee United player released
Lovenkrands through the middle, only for the Dane to see his shot rebound to safety off Speroni's legs.
A one-goal lead is never enough. Lovell almost enforced that very point with just twelve minutes remaining when he seized on a Caballero head-flick only to see Klos block his effort.
Rangers celebrated that escape by securing victory in 81 minutes with a dream goal from debutant Thompson. A reverse pass from substitute Steven McLean found De Boer on the right, his low cross across the face of goal being turned over the line by the new man.
The final whistle brought the news from Aberdeen that Celtic had surrendered two points in the title race, leaving Rangers to go into the winter break with a
Manager Alex McLeish was at pains to stress that too much should not be expected of Thompson:
"It was a good start - but he's here to bolster the squad, not win us the title. He gives us an extra option up front."
McLeish also confirmed that both Moore and Lovenkrands had been unwell in recent days.
RANGERS Klos; Ross, Moore, Amoruso, Muscat; Caniggia (Thompson 60), Ferguson, Malcolm, Lovenkrands (Nerlinger 84); De Boer, Mols (S. McLean 79)
UNUSED SUBS McGregor, W. Gibson
DUNDEE Speroni; Mackay, Khizanishvili, Mair, Hernandez; Milne, Rae, Smith, Brady (Novo 67); Caballero, Lovell (Robertson 81)
UNUSED SUBS Soutar, Beith, Robb
REFEREE Tom Brown