Rangers 3 Motherwell 1
Rangers delivered a knockout blow to high-flying Motherwell today when they claimed all three points at Ibrox to keep the pressure on rivals Celtic in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Daniel Cousin opened the scoring shortly before the break, before battling Well hauled themselves back into the game through Paul Quinn.
Chris Porter then bundled the ball into the back of his own net, with a last-gasp strike from Kris Boyd the icing on the cake for Rangers.
Boyd had looked lively after coming off the bench at Aberdeen but again had to settle for the role of substitute as Walter Smith kept the faith with Cousin, making just one change from the 1-1 draw at Pittodrie.
Lee McCulloch’s straight red card meant he sat out the visit of Motherwell and Chris Burke was the surprise inclusion, making only his third appearance – and second start – of the season.
There were no surprises in the Motherwell line-up, as Mark McGhee persisted with the tried and tested system which had served him so well until last week’s shock 3-0 defeat at home to Falkirk.
With little in the way of clear-cut chances from either side in the opening exchanges, Charlie Adam eventually tried his luck with an opportunistic drive from the edge of the box. Graeme Smith was far from troubled in the Motherwell goal but the effort did succeed in sparking the game into life.
Jim Paterson’s challenge on Burke saw the home side awarded a free-kick a few yards from the far-side corner flag and provided Adam with the opportunity to make amends for his earlier miss.
He stepped up for the set-piece and almost surprised Smith with a curling effort from an unlikely angle, which the Well keeper was relieved to see drift the wrong side of the upright.
At the other end, a Stephen Hughes drive was smothered by Allan McGregor, before Burke surged up the park and drilled just over from 18 yards under pressure from David Clarkson.
Motherwell had another decent chance when Steven McGarry’s cross from the right was pounced upon by Ross McCormack but the former Rangers youngster was denied by the legs of McGregor.
Burke then saw a reasonably tame looking effort tipped wide by Smith and only the woodwork prevented Rangers from opening the scoring from the resulting corner.
Burke’s inswinging corner found Carlos Cuellar amid all the bodies in the box and he rose above everyone else only for his header to crash off the underside of the bar before Steven Naismith stabbed wide.
The breakthrough eventually came four minutes before the break. Barry Ferguson’s flick was cleared off the line by Quinn and the ball broke to Steven Whittaker.
His cross from the left found Cousin and the striker delivered a low angled drive which left Smith with no chance.
Motherwell had the bulk of the chances, as well as an unsuccessful penalty claim, after the restart.
McGarry’s shot on the turn appeared to strike the arm of David Weir but referee Steve Conroy signalled for play to continue.
McGregor was then called into action to block McCormack’s shot, before Clarkson nodded just over after more good work from McCormack.
McGarry was withdrawn for Darren Smith, while Naismith made way for Thomas Buffel to make his first SPL appearance in almost a year.
However his comeback was overshadowed by Motherwell, who levelled the scoreline with 64 minutes gone. McCormack’s corner was met by Quinn and dreadful defending from Rangers allowed the header to nestle in the back of the net.
Rangers immediately tried to restore their advantage and Cousin came close to claiming his second of the day but was denied by the crossbar.
When the goal did arrive, it came from an unlikely source with 21 minutes to go.
Adam’s corner into the box was flicked on by Cousin and Porter was in the wrong place at the wrong time to bundle into the back of his own net from a few yards.
Boyd – who had come off the bench for Cousin with 15 minutes to go – then grabbed a goal of his own in injury time, meeting Burke’s pass before sliding it under the body of Smith.