Kilmarnock 1 Rangers 3
Kris Boyd again returned to haunt his former club when he grabbed a hat-trick for Rangers in the Bank of Scotland Premier League at Kilmarnock.
It has been more than 12 months since he swapped Rugby Park for Ibrox, but the striker clearly still knows Killie’s weak points and how to exploit them.
The brace brings his tally to eight goals in five games against Kilmarnock, and sets Rangers up nicely for Wednesday’s UEFA Cup tie against Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel.
Steven Naismith did manage to pull a goal back for the home side but it proved to be too little, too late for Killie.
Rangers manager Walter Smith switched to the 4-2-3-1 formation, which was unsuccessfully used by previous boss Paul Le Guen, to accommodate new recruit Kevin Thomson in midfield.
Chris Burke was also drafted into the top team in place of Libor Sionko.
Killie boss Jim Jefferies made enforced changes after a 3-0 victory over Falkirk in their last game allowed them to win a place in next month’s CIS Insurance Cup final.
In came Gary Wales, Grant Murray and Rhian Dodds; out went the injured Momo Sylla, the suspended Colin Nish and Allan Johnston, who was named on the bench.
The first chance of the game fell to Rangers when Boyd chested into the path of Barry Ferguson but he fired across the face of goal and wide from just inside the 18-yard box.
The breakthrough came after just eight minutes and it was the Ibrox side who took the lead in controversial circumstances.
Referee Dougie McDonald pointed to the penalty spot when Boyd went to ground under pressure from Simon Ford.
And his decision sparked a furious response from Kilmarnock players and fans, who questioned how much contact had been made and whether the challenge was even inside the box.
Despite the furore, Boyd stepped up to successfully convert from 12 yards, rifling straight down the middle of the goal.
Rangers had the ball in the back of the net again soon after when Ferguson nodded home, but the goal was deemed offside, with Ugo Ehiogu apparently the offender.
Boyd tried to add to his tally with a long range effort but drilled just wide of the post from 35 yards.
Rangers were then forced to make their first change of the day after just 25 minutes when Ehiogu appeared to pull up and was replaced in the heart of defence by Karl Svensson.
Boyd’s perseverance paid off when he was rewarded with another goal after half an hour.
Alan Hutton was the provider with a cross from the right, picking out the unmarked striker, who bulleted home the header from just outside the six-yard box.
Naismith could have pulled a goal back for Killie just before the break, only for his shot to flash just wide of target.
Both teams made changes at half-time. Kilmarnock replaced Frazer Wright with Gary Locke, while Rangers withdrew Thomson for Nacho Novo and switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
Rangers should have added to their lead within minutes of the restart when a weakly-struck Novo effort looked certain to be helped into the back of the net by a thunderous strike from Burke.
But the effort cannoned off the body of James Fowler, leaving him crumpled in a heap in the goalmouth as Ferguson blasted the rebound wide.
Kilmarnock were then handed the opportunity to pull a goal back, thanks to a Hutton shove on Naismith in the box, only for Gers goalkeeper Allan McGregor to save Peter Leven’s spot-kick.
Instead, it was Rangers who increased their advantage from the penalty spot at the other end of the park with 59 minutes on the clock.
Fowler was lucky to escape with only a yellow card for hauling down Novo, before Boyd completed his hat-trick with his second penalty of the day.
To their credit, Kilmarnock brushed themselves off and finally had the ball in the back of the net after 72 minutes.
A Gordon Greer flick-on at the back post was missed by McGregor but fell to Naismith, who managed to bundle over the line from a yard out.
However, it was not quite enough to spark a Killie fightback and Rangers held on for the win.