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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 21:35 GMT
Gretna 1-2 Rangers
By Julian Taylor

Barry Ferguson celebrates putting Rangers ahead
Barry Ferguson celebrates putting Rangers ahead
Rangers extended their lead at the top of the SPL to four points over rivals Celtic with a hard-fought win over struggling Gretna at Fir Park.

Barry Ferguson volleyed Rangers ahead on the stroke of half-time after Steven Naismith and Chris Burke failed to convert earlier opportunities.

Kenny Deuchar bulleted a superb header to deservedly bring the Black and Whites level just after the restart.

But Daniel Cousin earned victory with a well-taken low shot in the 74th minute.

The Black and Whites can take a degree of encouragement from a battling performance, but ultimately having failed to take anything from the clash they remain firmly off the pace at the foot of the table.

Rangers manager Walter Smith made three changes - Alan Hutton began the first of a two-match suspension and he was replaced at right-back by Steven Whittaker.

Charlie Adam and Sasa Papac were drafted in the starting line-up, while Kevin Thomson dropped out of the 18-man squad.

Gretna made three changes following their Scottish Cup draw with Morton, with Aurelien Collin, Kyle Naughton and Allan Jenkins replacing Evan Horwood, Chris Innes and Nick Deverdics.

Predictably, David Iron's men were feeling the force of Rangers' pressure in the opening minutes, a Ferguson strike was blocked by Danny Hall.

Rangers looked lively, and Naismith - causing Gretna some concern on the left - went close, screwing a shot into the side-netting before pulling a shot wide of target at the near post.

Gretna's Kenny Deuchar (right) is congratulated by Kyle Naughton
Gretna's Kenny Deuchar (right) is congratulated by Kyle Naughton

Burke then tried his luck from 25 yards but his effort went just over, before he proceeded to set up Ferguson for an effort which also went wide.

Buoyed by the let-offs, Gretna grew in confidence, and Carlos Cuellar's failure to track Deuchar gave the Gretna forward a glimpse of goal but Allan McGregor was sufficiently alert to the danger.

The Black and Whites, however, were finding life difficult against the league leaders, and Fabian Yantorno failed with a speculative hit from the edge of the penalty area.

The Uruguayan was made to pay for the miss when the Light Blues went ahead just before the break.

Ferguson strode through a congested midfield, fastening on to Naismith's headed flick, and the Scotland captain confidently blasted the ball past helpless Gretna keeper Tony Caig.

Deuchar made amends for his earlier miss, though, shocking the majority of the crowd with a quickfire equaliser.

The towering Deuchar eluded the attentions of Whittaker six yards out, before powering home a header from Jenkins' swirling right-wing cross.

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The ever-industrious Ferguson had two chances to restore Rangers' lead, but after outstripping the Gretna defence, he could only fire into the netting after a good save from Caig.

The Ibrox side continued to press their basement opponents and brought on Jean-Claude Darcheville for Naismith.

And the Frenchman's introduction paid off almost immediately when his perfectly weighted pass set up strike partner Cousin for the second.

Former Lens forward Cousin raced beyond the Gretna rearguard and, after drawing Caig, he drilled home from an acute angle despite the best efforts of Hall on the goal line.

It was just about enough to bring the points back to Ibrox and the outcome will have pleased Smith ahead of a tricky visit to Inverness Caledonian Thistle at the weekend.


Gretna: Caig, Barr (Canning 82), Collin, Hall, Naughton (Makinwa 82), Jenkins, Osman (Buscher 30), Murray, Skelton, Yantorno, Deuchar. Subs Not Used: Fleming, Baldacchino, McGill, McLaren.

Goal: Deuchar 46.

Rangers: McGregor, Whittaker, Cuellar, Weir, Papac, Burke, Hemdani, Ferguson, Adam, Cousin, Naismith (Darcheville 67). Subs Not Used: Carroll, Boyd, Novo, Broadfoot, Lennon, Furman.

Goals: Ferguson 45, Cousin 74.

Att: 6,137

Ref: I Brines



SEE ALSO
Smith relief as Gers sink Gretna
16 Jan 08 |  Rangers
Irons encouraged despite defeat
16 Jan 08 |  Gretna


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