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Rangers in a rush on night of indicators ahead of Europa League blockbuster - Keith Jackson's big match verdict

By Keith Jackson

It was a night when no one really wanted to be at Ibrox. Least of all Ross County.

But a Rangers support with its mind elsewhere and a group of players who know destiny is waiting for them, just days away in Seville, had to go through the motions nonetheless.

And the way Giovanni van Bronckhorst ’s players set about their business – getting this one done and dusted in the opening 28 minutes –was an indication that they too can hardly wait to get on with the job of facing Eintracht Frankfurt in next week’s Europa League Final.

Scott Wright opened the scoring and James Tavernier netted the second from the spot as Rangers rushed to get this one out of the way.

And even though sub Jordan White pulled one back for the visitors in a stop-start second-half, punctuated by a constant string of substitutes, late goals from Fashion Sakala and Amad Diallo ended it off in comprehensive style.

With the destination of the title being settled elsewhere, van Bronckhorst’s only real dilemma was centred around how to pick a team for domestic duty without risking everything that might be awaiting this team next Wednesday in Spain.

Leave them all on the masseur’s table? Or get one last 90 minutes into the tank of his main men before rolling out the B team at Tynecastle at the weekend?

Scott Wright (Kirk O'Rourke/Rangers FC/REX/Shutterstock)

That he opted to go strong but still couldn’t find a place for Kemar Roofe, suggests that he might have no choice but to attempt to win a European title without a recognised striker.

But then again, they have been getting used to it ever since Roofe hobbled out of the equation a couple of weeks ago so this then was one final dress rehearsal for Joe Aribo who is learning the job of leading the line on the hoof.

That Alex Lowry was also given a starting slot, a sign perhaps that this hugely-talented teenager may also be playing his way into contention for a contribution of some sorts when history is on the line in the city known as the frying pan of Spain.

And this rejigged side settled quickly into its stride, forcing County onto the back foot and penning them deep inside their own half. Aribo could have opened the scoring in just four minutes had his shot not been deflected wide and Tavenrier threatened soon after with a drive which was diverted over the top.

County keeper Ross Laidlaw was forced into his first save of the night when he touched a John Lundstram effort around his right-hand post after the Scouser had been picked out by Aribo’s cut back.

But the breakthrough came from the corner with Borna Barisic finding the head of Connor Goldson and Wright pouncing from close range to steer the defender’s header home with a tidy finish.

James Tavernier (Kirk O'Rourke/Rangers FC/REX/Shutterstock)

It was almost as if Rangers were in a rush to get this game out of the way as they continued to pour forward and the second goal arrived in 28 minutes when County were carved open for the umpteenth time with Tavernier darting through onto Wright’s subtle flick.

In full stride, the Rangers skipper was brought crashing down by Alex Jacovitti and ref Andrew Dallas had an easy decision to point to the spot.

Up stepped Tavernier to do what Tavernier does – he smashed this one low to Laidlaw’s left – and this contest was all but over in less than half an hour.

More chances came and went before the break with Laidlaw turning Lowry’s rasping effort over the top, Aribo having one blocked at
point-blank range and Goldson smashing the outside of the keeper’s left-hand post.

But this was becoming an excruciating watch for County boss Malky Mackay who prowled along the touchline as if he could not quite believe what was being done to his team. Van Bronckhorst made a double change at half-time with Aribo taking the rest of the night off and Barisic also wrapped in cotton wool after taking a sore one towards the end of the first half.

On came Diallo to lead the line with Leon Balogun slotting into the centre of defence and Calvin Bassey switching to left-back.

But the pattern of the match remained identical. Balogun almost added a third in 51 minutes when, after winning a free-kick, he got on the end of Tavernier’s delivery to thump a header off the base of Laidlaw’s left-hand post.

Then Tavernier created further chaos with a cut back which was met flush by Lowry. The youngster’s shot was charged down by a desperate block and when the ball broke to Ryan Kent his effort was also charged down.

Kent’s night was over soon after with van Bronckhorst also removing Lundstram and sending on both Sakala and Steve Davis.

Mackay also made changes, sending on White and David Cancola for Blair Spittal and Ross Callachan.

And, while the unfortunate Cancola had to limp off again almost immediately, White did make an instant impact, firing a stunning shot beyond Allan McGregor from 25 yards after Wright had been robbed by Joseph Hungbo on the halfway line.

But Rangers wrapped it up in 81 minutes when Sakala hurled himself headlong at Tavernier’s corner to crash a diving header into Laidlaw’s net.

And, in injury-time, Diallo added a fourth after Lowry and Bassey combined to set him up with a tap-in at the back post – and send the home fans off to the airport happy.

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Dive Deeper:
3 talking points as Rangers shrug off title loss and gear up for Seville with Ross County romp
It was a comfortable evening for Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his men on the night they were dethroned as Scottish…
Rangers squad revealed as Amad Diallo set to lead Ibrox fringe show against Ross County
Giovanni van Bronckhorst has a difficult balancing act between giving players a rest but ensuring they they stay on their…
Rangers squad revealed for Hearts as Aaron Ramsey and Amad Diallo set for final Europa League audition
Gio van Bronckhorst will get one final look at his troops in action before the trip to Seville.
Kemar Roofe in Rangers running out of time fear over Europa League Final 'close call'
Rangers are hoping Roofe will be fit to lead the line in Seville but just a week out, Van Bronckhorst…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Ryan Jack 'ahead' of Kemar Roofe in Rangers fitness race as key pair eye Europa League Final return
The opening scorer in the Ross County romp limped off but the Ibrox boss has no concerns as the build…
Rangers star Alex Lowry vows to stay grounded after man of the match award tops off stellar week
The Uddingston teen impressed once again after playing the full 90 minutes against Ross County
Get all your news in one place