Rangers are through to the Fourth Round of the Scottish Cup following this evening’s 3-0 win over Arbroath.
There was never the slightest danger of a Cup upset despite the cold, blustery conditions that greeted the SPL leaders at the ground perched on the very precipice of the North Sea.
From Dubai to Arbroath there could scarcely have been a greater contrast in climate at the most exposed football ground in the British Isles. Rangers’ first visit to Gayfield Park for some nine years found them facing a side – currently lying near the bottom of the First Division – that contained one player who had faced them in the Berwick fiasco twelve months ago, namely Craig Feroz, and an ex-Ranger Ross Currie.
Today was the Ibrox club’s tenth Scottish Cup meeting with the Angus club, and the fourth at Gayfield. Once upon a time – in 1884 to be exact – Rangers suffered a cataclysmic 3-4 defeat at the hands of the ‘Red Lichties’ only to win a reprieve on appeal, courtesy of the famous telegraph: "Beaten on a back green." The return visit ended 8-1 to the Kinning Park side.
Arthur Numan made a welcome return to the Rangers’ ranks, replacing Kevin Muscat, as the Glasgow giants started the match fully aware that there had already been a major cup shock with Hearts’ drubbing at the hands of Falkirk. Perhaps surprisingly there was no place in the Ibrox sixteen for either Peter Lovenkrands or Steven Thompson.
There was plenty of room on the terracing, making a complete nonsense of the restricted capacity. Rangers’ almost opened the scoring inside 75 seconds when Barry Ferguson whipped in a left-foot drive from some twenty yards that struck the crossbar.
Neil McCann was next to test Craig Hinchcliffe in the home goal, his chip from a Fernando Ricksen cross shaving the bar.
Rangers’ movement off the ball was something clearly alien to Arbroath, and with Ferguson driving them on the Light Blues were encamped in their opponents’ penalty area. Indeed, the Ibrox Captain again came close to breaking the deadlock in twelve minutes when he played a one-two with Shota Arveladze only to see his curling shot from the edge of the penalty area tipped over by Hinchcliffe.
The opening goal was as inevitable as the bracing wind, and it was indeed ‘Fergie’ who provided it in 26 minutes when his low twenty-yard daisy-cutter from a McCann corner found the net – the home defence perhaps being distracted by Arveladze’s dummy.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 when Craig Moore headed home a Ricksen corner.
Stefan Klos had nary a save to make throughout the first-half, but within seconds of the restart he had to be alert to hold a John McGlashan header from a Paul Brownlie corner.
Arthur Numan was breaking forward at every opportunity. In 51 minutes Hinchcliffe beat out his drive from an Arveladze pass.
Three minutes later it should have been 3-0 when a McCann cross found Mols, only for the Dutchman to shoot wide of the target.
The third goal was merely delayed however – Arveladze taking possession of a Numan pass and throwing off his markers with a quick turn and low twenty-yard drive into the corner of the net.
Rangers were coasting now – but suffered an injury blow in 76 minutes when a clash of heads between Amoruso and Ricksen meant the loss of both players.
Having already used two substitutes, only Bob Malcolm could be introduced, leaving the Cup Holders to play out time with ten men.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Rangers were never troubled. Indeed Barry Ferguson forced Hinchcliffe into a superb save in 86 minutes following a one-two with Mols.
Arbroath almost snatched a consolation goal in the dying seconds when Steven McLean cleared McGlashan’s header off the line.
Nevertheless Rangers ended the game as easy 3-0 winners, and will now travel to Somerset Park, Ayr in the next round.
ARBROATH Hinchcliffe; Tait, Florence; Cusick (Spink 57), Ritchie, Currie; Brownlie (Swankie 76), Cargill, Feroz, McGlashan, Henslee (Heenan 65)
UNUSED SUBS McAulay, Woodcock
RANGERS Klos; Ross, Moore, Amoruso (Malcolm 76), Numan; Ricksen, Ferguson, De Boer, McCann (Caniggia 69); Mols, Arveladze (McLean 74)
UNUSED SUBS Nerlinger, McGregor
REFEREE John Rowbotham