Rangers maintained their impressive winning run in the Scottish Premiership with a comfortable win against St Mirren at the SMISA Stadium thanks to goals from Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos.
The win was Rangers’ 13th on the trot and confirmed the club’s best start to a league campaign since 1928, with 17 clean sheets in their 21 league matches so far.
The visit to Paisley was the second in as many weeks after the Buddies ended Rangers’ hopes of securing silverware in a surprise 3-2 defeat a fortnight ago in the BetFred Cup.
However Rangers have recovered well from that shock defeat and arrived in Paisley on the back of a deserved win against Hibs on Boxing Day. Steven Gerrard named two changes from Saturday – out went Leon Balogun and Ryan Kent, with Filip Helander and Alfredo Morelos coming in.
Any nerves Rangers supporters had about returning to the ground which ended a 27 unbeaten run in all competitions were not settled in the early stages as St Mirren created the first chance. Sloppy play allowed Jamie McGrath a shot at goal which Allan McGregor, making his 400th appearance for the club, made light work of. But it was a reminder to Rangers that they could not be complacent.
St Mirren's recent form has been impressive and have made their best start to a league campaign since 1988. Jon Obika came close to potentially increasing that run when McGregor spilled Jamie McGrath’s shot, only for Obika to fire high and wide with the rebound.
But Rangers kicked into gear and took the lead on the 27th minute when Kemar Roofe fired in his eighth goal in as many games after latching on to a through ball from Ianis Hagi – a wicked deflection off Conor McCarthy ensured Jak Alnwick was rendered helpless.
Rangers doubled their lead five minutes later when Joe Shaugnessy was short with an attempted back-pass, which allowed Alfredo Morelos to run in and score his first goal in nine games.
In the second-half Rangers controlled the game with some impressive possession play. Morelos tested Alnwick again from a tight angle, with Hagi unable to conjure up anything from the rebound. Then Roofe had his hooked effort cleared off the line by McGrath.
Morelos then put Hagi through on goal – but the Romanian was forced wide and nobody could get on the end of his fierce drive across the face of goal.
The win maintained Rangers’ 16 point advantage at the top of the table – although Celtic are still to play three games in hand – and they welcome the Parkhead club at Ibrox on Saturday.
Steven Gerrard was delighted with the win, stating on Rangers TV: "We asked the players to really own the pitch out of possession, and can we get back to keeping clean sheets on the bounce.
"We have done that and we have delivered that. I thought out of possession, we weren't really caused many problems. There were a few little nervy moments, but in the main, we have managed it really well.
"Both number nines have scored a goal, I thought Joe Aribo and Glen Kamara were immense, and we have kept another clean sheet, so in the main, we are happy and we move into the weekend in a good place."
Allan McGregor, who became the first Rangers goalkeeper since Peter McCloy to make 400 appearances for the club, played down his personal achievements to focus on a vital win. "I'm actually more pleased with the win. But it is a good achievement and it is one to definitely look back on when I retire, so I am pleased”, he said.
Rangers now go into Saturday’s game with Celtic in the best possible shape. With trips to Pittodrie and Easter Road to come in January, Rangers will be looking to make a statement of their title credentials against their greatest rivals.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Kamara, Hagi, Roofe, Morelos.
SUBS: McLaughlin, Bassey, Defoe, Itten, Kent, Zungu, Patterson, Barker, Balogun.
ST MIRREN: Alnwick, Tait, Mason, Shaugnessy, McCarthy, Doyle-Hayes, Obika, McGrath, Connolly, Fraser, Erahon.
SUBS: Flynn, Durmus, Dennis, McAllister, Foley, MacPherson, Morais, Erwin, Lyness.
REFEREE: Alan Muir
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