Blue Toon impress at Ibrox Stadium

PETERHEAD V RANGERS'(DUNCAN BROWN)''PETERHEAD'S RORY McALLISTER AND RANGERS LEWIS McLEOD SCRAP FOR THE BALL.
PETERHEAD V RANGERS'(DUNCAN BROWN)''PETERHEAD'S RORY McALLISTER AND RANGERS LEWIS McLEOD SCRAP FOR THE BALL.

Peterhead may have come up short as they made just the second visit to Ibrox in club history, but there was plenty for the team and town to be proud of.

Goals from Lee McCulloch and Lee Wallace may have shot down Peterhead hopes, but the way their team dug in from the off will have pleased the travelling support.

The home fans were almost silenced after just five minutes, as the Blue Toon passed up a glorious opportunity to take a shock lead against a home side that included six full international players.

Ian Black misplaced a header under pressure from Dave Ross which meant Rory McAllister was on-side, despite the flag of assistant referee Raymond White being raised.

McAllister played to the whistle and lifted the ball over Neil Alexander, only to look on in horror as his effort agonisingly came back off the crossbar.

The danger wasn’t over yet, though, and Peterhead debutant David Cox left Wallace tied up in knots before angling a cross-cum-shot towards the back post, where Neil Alexander had to scoop the ball out from under the crossbar.

Cox, signed on loan from Alloa Athletic, and was one of four changes to the side which had drawn with Stirling Albion. Jamie Redman and Dean Cowie returned to the midfield, and goalkeeper Marc McCallum also started.

Paul Jarvie, Bryan Deasley and Martin Bavidge dropped to the bench, with Graeme Sharp missing altogether.

In the wake of Rangers’ 7-0 Scottish Cup win against Alloa last week, Jim McInally set his men out in a 5-4-1 formation, looking to keep things tight and frustrate the home side.

So well were Peterhead frustrating their hosts, that the closest they came in the opening half-hour was a curling Black free-kick which looked to be sneaking just under the crossbar at the far post until McCallum palmed the effort away.

This wasn’t one-sided by any stretch of the imagination, and Alexander was saved by the woodwork again when a Ryan Strachan free-kick evaded his grasp and again left the crossbar wobbling.

The breakthrough came just two minutes from the interval and, yes, it was from a set piece. The Blue Toon wall had stood firm to deflect McCulloch’s free-kick behind, but the Rangers captain cleverly stepped away from Scott Ross to head Black’s resultant corner into the net.

Peterhead looked devastated to have conceded to close to half-time and almost gave away another straight away, only for Little to shoot wide.

The second half started in much the same vein, with the three-man central defence of Strachan, Scott Ross and Ross Smith repelling their hosts’ pressure, and looking to set up whatever they could on the counter.

It was from one such raid forward that McCulloch became the second name to go into the book, Cowie having earlier had his name taken.

Former Celtic man Strachan sent in another beautiful free-kick to find McAllister all alone in the penalty area, but this time he headed straight at Alexander.

It was perhaps a sign that there would be no repeat of Peterhead’s stirring comeback on the opening day of the season, and so it proved as Rangers doubled their advantage shortly afterwards.

Again it came from a set-piece, this one straight from the training ground. Dave Ross bundled Wallace over on the left, near the bye-line.

Black rolled the ball into space as Wallace peeled away from McAllister, and the Scotland left-back turned the ball home at the near post from 12 yards.

Dean Shiels and Kal Naismith passed up late chances to add to the scoreline, though it’s fair to say that anything more than 2-0 would have flattered the home side who struggled to break down this impressive young Peterhead team.

PETERHEAD: McCallum, D. Ross, Noble, Smith, S. Ross, Strachan, Cowie (Deasley, 61), Redman (Bavidge, 73), McAllister, Cox (Winters, 80), McLaughlin. Subs: Maguire, Jarvie (gk).

Attendance: 48,407.