THE focus has switched from Florida to Fraserburgh. The silverware in the Sunshine State wasn’t important but the pursuit of the Scottish Cup certainly is.
A 4-2 victory over Corinthians was a pleasing way for Graeme Murty’s side to round off their time in the United States but the result didn’t matter that much on this occasion. That isn’t the case when they travel to Bellslea Park on Saturday, however, and the return to competitive action is the start of a hugely significant second half of the season at Ibrox.
Rangers spent the first few days of their time Stateside at the IMG Academy in Bradenton before making the journey up to Orlando and the trip has been important for the Light Blues as new faces have joined the group and familiar ones have returned.
Andy Halliday and Michael O’Halloran have pulled on the jersey once again, while Sean Goss and Jamie Murphy have done so for the first time. On the touchline, Murty has a new right hand man after Jimmy Nicholl was appointed as his assistant.
With only a few hundred supporters from either side inside the vast bowl, there was no chance the Spectrum Stadium would live up to its ‘Bounce House’ moniker on this occasion.
NCAA Division 1 outfit the UCF Knights are the home side at the 44,000 capacity arena but it was football rather than the College equivalent in these parts that was on show on this occasion.
Rangers were joined on the park by Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick and Squidward ahead of their match at the Orlando City Stadium on Thursday and it was the Simpsons that were on mascot duty here as the players made their way out from opposite ends of the ground.
With the Stars and Stripes fluttering in the Florida breeze, the singing of the national anthem delayed proceedings even further. In the end, the action lived up to the pre-match show.
This was never going to be an all-energy, high tempo affair and the pace in the early stages was relaxed as Rangers attempted to knock the ball about a park that didn’t exactly look pristine from a press box perched high on the top of the main stand.
There was little for the Light Blue legions to get enthused about but they did, unfortunately from their perspective, get a decent view of both goals in the first half.
The first came on 32 minutes as the Brazilians worked the ball well from a throw-in and Jadson knocked a cross to the back post. James Tavernier was caught underneath it and he was punished for his mistake as Rodriguinho beat Wes Foderingham with a neat finish.
When former Celtic striker Colin Kazim-Richards doubled the Brazilians’ lead a few minutes later, his low finish across Foderingham finding the corner of the net, the game looked to be beyond Rangers.
The changes from Murty at the break weren’t quite as sweeping on this occasion as Foderingham, Tavernier, Fabio Cardoso and Dalcio retained the spots but it was one of the substitutes that got Rangers back into the game.
Goss showed glimpses of his passing ability during the Atletico fixture and it was his free-kick delivery that beat the Corinthians defence. From six yards, Alfredo Morelos diverted the ball into the roof of the net as the Gers fans finally had something to celebrate.
They didn’t have to wait long for another reason, either. Morelos turned provider as he collected a pass from David Bates and Halliday timed his run perfectly as he fired home from inside the area.
It soon got even better for Rangers as the comeback was completed. Jamie Murphy picked out Morelos from the left and the Colombian swept the ball into the net with a powerful finish.
There was still time for another and it was Tavernier that got it as keeper Caique could only palm a Dalcio cross into his path and he converted from six yards.
It was job done for Rangers. The serious work will now begin once again, though.
Rangers first half: Foderingham, Tavernier, D Wilson, Cardoso, John, Holt, Kranjcar, Dalcio, Windass, O’Halloran, Herrera
Rangers second half: Foderingham (Kelly), Tavernier (A Wilson), Bates, Cardoso, Hodson, Halliday, Goss, Candeias, Murphy, Dalcio, Morelos