John Fleck’s first ever goal for Rangers and a late Kyle Lafferty strike secured a 2-0 win over Dundee United at Ibrox to cut the gap at the top of the Scottish Premier League to one point.
With Celtic not playing Inverness Caledonian Thistle until Sunday the Ibrox side took the chance to put pressure on their Old Firm rivals at the top of the league by taking all three points.
It was 17-year-old Fleck, nephew of former Rangers and Norwich player John Fleck, that won and converted a penalty with just over ten minutes remaining to light up what was otherwise a dull affair.
Substitute Lafferty then scored the easiest of chances in injury time to double the Ibrox side’s lead.
In the opening stages Rangers had United, whose midweek League Cup defeat against Celtic went to penalties, on the back foot but the Ibrox side couldn’t create any chances.
It was United who had the first opportunity to take the lead in the ninth minute when David Robertson raced into the box to stab a long throw-in from the right towards goal but Allan McGregor got down well to save it.
In the 25th minute Nacho Novo carved out Rangers first chance when he went on a rampaging run through the United defence and laid the ball off to Kris Boyd in the box but his curling effort went wide of the post.
Five minutes later Barry Ferguson connected with a Fleck free-kick from the right but his low drive was blocked by the United defence.
With 32 minutes gone Boyd chested down the ball to Fleck, whose powerful effort on the half-volley was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Lukasz Zaluska.
United had the first chance of the second-half when Warren Feeney’s cross from the right was missed by David Weir and the sliding Francisco Sandaza was inches away from connecting with it.
It took until the 65th minute for Rangers to have any sort of meaningful effort. Madjid Bougherra went on a run down the right and found Boyd with a cutback but his midair downward volley was saved by Zaluska.
A minute later Fleck tried his luck from the edge of the box but his curling effort went wide of the post. Lafferty, on for Boyd, thought he had opened the scoring in the 75th minute when he slipped Steven Davis’ chipped pass under Zaluska but it was ruled offside.
And it was Fleck, in only his third start, who gave Rangers the lead in the 77th minute. The 17-year-old went on a darting run down the left-wing before being hauled down in the box by Mihael Kovacevic.
Fleck picked himself up and calmly placed his spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, sending Zaluska the wrong way, for his first senior goal.
Deep into injury time Zaluska rushed out of his box to tackle Ferguson and the ball broke to Lafferty who stroked the ball into an empty net.
Both teams got a point in the first ever match at the new St Mirren Park. Kilmarnock took the lead through a first-half goal from debut boy Kevin Kyle but substitute Dennis Wyness got a late equaliser for St Mirren in a 1-1 draw.
Derek Riordan and David Clarkson scored as Hibs and Motherwell drew 1-1. A Simon Mensing double earned Hamilton a 2-0 win over Hearts to end a run of 19 consecutive defeats in matches against the Edinburgh side.
A Michael Higdon goal was enough to seal a 1-0 win for Falkirk over Aberdeen.
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