Rangers will take on Celtic at Ibrox in two weeks in the Fourth Round of the Scottish Cup after beating League One Cove Rangers 4-0 at Ibrox tonight thanks to goals from Jermain Defoe, Nathan Patterson and a Kemar Roofe double.
The Light Blues made seven changes from their previous outing, the draw with Celtic last month, with Jon McLaughlin, Patterson, Calvin Bassey, Scott Arfield, Roofe, Defoe and Scott Wright all coming into the starting XI – Wright making his first start for the Gers following his move from Aberdeen earlier this year.
Despite having been widely expected to start, knocks picked up during the week left Jack Simpson only making the bench while Bongani Zungu missed out altogether meaning Gerrard had to turn to the likes of Steven Davis and Filip Helander when he may have preferred to have given both a rest ahead of upcoming fixtures.
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) April 4, 2021
It was Wright who had the first real chance for the Light Blues after only two minutes, getting in behind the Cove defence and on the end of a lovely pass from Davis but the Ibrox star’s show was charged down by a Cove defender at the expense of a corner kick.
Rangers continued to pile on the pressure as they looked to open the scoring early, Roofe and Defoe both having chances in the first ten minutes, and Cove must have feared the worst as they clung on desperately – breathing a huge sigh of relief when Roofe crashed the ball off the post from a corner.
After failing to take the lead in the early stages, Rangers started to find their visitors putting up a bit more of a fight as they tried to frustrate the Gers and keep the score level for as long as possible but it didn’t last long.
Just as the tempo started to dip from the game, the ball fell to Defoe 30 or so yards from goal and the Englishman set himself before rifling home his 30th Rangers goal from distance to break Cove’s resistance.
What a hit that is from Jermain Defoe to fire @RangersFC in front! 😱🚀
Just as deadly as ever 🔥
"This guy was born to score goals." 🗣 pic.twitter.com/scteb9Ll76
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) April 4, 2021
The second didn’t take long in coming as Cove tried to overdo things, being robbed of possession on the edge of their own area and allowing Kemar Roofe to fire home the rebound from Scott Arfield’s saved effort at goal.
With two goals in the opening 30 minutes, the next 15 minutes were going to be crucial for the League One promotion hopefuls but Rangers looked to have the bit between their teeth and flooded forward to make it 3-0 within 60 seconds of the second goal going in.
Roofe again was the scorer but it was Scott Wright who deserved the plaudits after showing great strength to hold the ball up then play in Roofe to smash the ball beyond McKenzie and completely kill the game off as a competitive fixture.
Cove boss Paul Hartley was left looking dejected as his side fell three goals behind and the former Celtic midfielder must have wondered just how heavy a scoreline his side were going to be on the end of.
With the opening 45 ticking down, Nathan Patterson grabbed Rangers’ fourth of the night, taking advantage of slack defending and nicking the ball away from a Cove player then finishing with the outside of his boot.
The interval saw Rangers make one change as Ianis Hagi replaced Davis in midfield, but the game lacked the ruthlessness from the Gers’ that typified the opening 45.
The drop in tempo was unsurprising given the scoreline but it did slowly build with Wright and Ianis Hagi central to everything going forward for the Light Blues and there couldn’t have been many on the Cove bench who were feeling anything other than dread as the Gers prepared to make their second change and bring Cedric Itten on – although there was plenty of concern for the Aberdonians when Masson looked to suffer a serious knee injury causing a lengthy break in play.
The break in play seemed to add some energy to the game, Rangers looking much livelier as Itten came close to getting his name on the scoresheet just minutes after coming off the bench to replace the impressive Roofe for the final 30 minutes.
Wright continued to cause problems for Cove every time he got on the ball and the winger’s performance must surely have brought him into contention for a start next weekend when the Light Blues face Hibs in their first post-split fixture in the Premiership.
With another date with Celtic now pencilled into the diaries, Rangers fans will be hoping Gerrard and his side can be the ones to end any hopes their bitter rivals have of ending this season with any silverware at all.
Rangers: McLaughlin, Patterson, Goldson, Helander, Bassey, Arfield, Davis, Kamara, Roofe, Wright, Defoe.
Subs: McGregor, Simpson, Hagi, Itten, Kent, Aribo, Morelos, Stewart, Balogun.
Cove Rangers: McKenzie, Scully, Ross, Watson, Livingston, Higgins, Mason, Fyvie, Graham, Smith, Megginson.
Subs: Strachan, Yule, McIntosh, McAllister, Ross, Demus, Logan, Ngwenya, Hanratty.
Here’s how Rangers fans reacted before the match after Gerrard’s starting XI was confirmed