Lafferty rounded Randolph to give Rangers an early lead at Fir Park
By Clive Lindsay
Rangers swept Motherwell aside for the fifth time this season to move four points clear at the top of the table.
Kyle Lafferty fired the opener after 18 minutes despite Steven Hammell's attempt to clear on the goal line.
Steven Davis extended the lead six minutes after the break with a low drive from just inside the box.
Nikica Jelavic headed home from close range 12 minutes later and Steven Naismith powered in two more, on 76 minutes and in stoppage time.
It was the fourth time this season that Motherwell had lost four or more goals to Rangers and it is now 30 meetings between the sides since the Steelmen's last win, in December 2002.
The Fir Park side have now conceded 21 goals to Rangers in their five meetings this season and their latest defeat ended the Scottish Cup finalists' unbeaten run of six games.
In the title race, the pressure now passes to Rangers' city rivals, Celtic, who will host Dundee United on Sunday hoping not to lose the theoretical advantage they have thanks to a game in hand.
The Glasgow side were unchanged from the Old Firm derby, their lack of resources perhaps explaining Maurice Edu's inclusion in central midfield despite another poor performance in last weekend's 0-0 draw.
However, it was the USA international who had the first chance to score after a matter of seconds when the ball fell to him only eight yards out, but Gavin Gunning made a goal-saving block.
Former Rangers defender Maurice Ross had come into the Motherwell starting line-up with Hammell and Steve Jennings - replacing Shaun Hutchinson, Tom Hateley and the injured Steven Saunders.
Jelavic and Naismith both scored in a fine second half for Rangers
And the recent right-back signing was dispossessed by Lafferty, who was next to threaten with a low drive from a difficult angle that was held by Darren Randolph at the second attempt.
The reigning champions were looking tentative and Madjid Bougherra came close to conceding a penalty with a trip on Keith Lasley at the edge of the penalty box.
However, the resulting free-kick came to nothing, and it was the visitors who broke the deadlock.
Davis powered forward after winning the ball on halfway and, when Gunning fluffed his attempt to intercept, Lafferty rounded the goalkeeper and slipped the ball into the net despite Hammell's attempt to clear on the line.
Motherwell responded immediately and Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor did well to claw away a dipping 22-yard drive from Steve Jones that took a deflection off Bougherra.
Rangers appeared to be resting on their lead, which was proving a dangerous tactic as Jamie Murphy weaved his way past a clutch of defenders across the edge of the penalty box before finally running out of room for his shot.
Francis Jeffers was played through, but a good block from the outrushing McGregor prevented the former Rangers striker either going for goal himself or playing the ball into the path of striker partner John Sutton.
Lafferty, who had been booked for a foul before scoring, was fortunate not to be shown a second yellow card in the dying seconds of the first half when he fired the ball into the net, having already been pulled up for offside.
Rangers extended their lead soon after the break when Naismith chested down a Gregg Wylde cross and, after his low drive was blocked at the near post by Randolph, Davis pounced to drive it into the far corner from 16 yards.
That appeared to settle Rangers' nerves and they threatened again when Davis forced a good save from Randolph from 20 yards, before Jelavic powered an effort off the top of the crossbar.
Davis fluffed a shot after racing clear into the Motherwell area and Jelavic was ruled offside after heading home a free-kick from the Northern Ireland midfielder.
But it was not long before the Croat striker was adding to his tally for the season, rising at the back post to head into the top corner from five yards after a fine Sasa Papac cross from the bye-line.
Naismith had been having a poor performance by his standards this season until he played a one-two with Wylde before blasting a 22-yard drive into the far corner.
The Scotland forward ought to have added to his total minutes later after a fine move released him in the box, but he flashed his low effort wide of the far post from 15 yards.
Rangers were now strolling to victory and the breathing space allowed manager Walter Smith to give a debut to 23-year-old midfielder Salim Kerkar for the final nine minutes.
Naismith rounded off a convincing win with a dipping 18-yard drive from an acute angle to eat into Celtic's advantage should the title go down to goal difference.
Live text and stats
Saturday, 30 April 2011
03 Hammell (Hutchinson 56)
22 Gunning yellow card
14 Lasley (Hateley 77)
17 Jones yellow card
24 Jeffers yellow card (McHugh 69)
39 Wylde (Kerkar 84)
11 Lafferty yellow card (Diouf 73)
Ref: TumiltyAtt: 8,968
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
90:00+1:53 The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.
90:00+1:40 Booking Gavin Gunning goes into the book.
90:00+1:00 El-Hadji Diouf provided the assist for the goal.
90:00+1:00 GOAL - Steven Naismith:Motherwell 0 - 5 Rangers Steven Naismith fires in a brilliant goal from the edge of the penalty box to the top left corner of the goal. Motherwell
89:38 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Tom Hateley, save by Allan McGregor.
83:08 Free kick taken by Allan McGregor.
83:08 Substitution Salim Kerkar on for Gregg Wylde.
83:08 Shot by Steven Naismith. Save by Darren Randolph. The assistant referee signals for offside against Robert McHugh.
82:02 Corner taken by Tom Hateley played to the near post, clearance made by Steven Davis.
79:09 Shaun Hutchinson concedes a free kick for a foul on El-Hadji Diouf. David Weir takes the free kick.
78:02 Shot from 35 yards by Gavin Gunning missed to the left of goal.
76:58 Effort from deep inside the area by Steven Naismith misses to the right of the target.
76:20 Substitution Tom Hateley joins the action as a substitute, replacing Keith Lasley.
75:27 The assist for the goal came from Gregg Wylde.
75:27 GOAL - Steven Naismith:Motherwell 0 - 4 Rangers Steven Naismith scores a goal from long range to the bottom left corner of the goal. Motherwell 0-4 Rangers.
72:09 Darren Randolph takes the free kick.
72:09 Substitution El-Hadji Diouf is brought on as a substitute for Kyle Lafferty.
72:09 The referee blows for offside.
71:20 Outswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Gavin Gunning.
68:06 Substitution Robert McHugh is brought on as a substitute for Francis Jeffers.
67:16 Gavin Gunning fouled by Kyle Lafferty, the ref awards a free kick. Stephen Craigan restarts play with the free kick.
64:23 Booking The referee shows Francis Jeffers a yellow card.
64:00 Assist by Sasa Papac.
64:00 GOAL - Nikica Jelavic:Motherwell 0 - 3 Rangers Nikica Jelavic finds the back of the net with a headed goal from close range. Motherwell 0-3 Rangers.
61:52 Maurice Ross fouled by David Weir, the ref awards a free kick. Maurice Ross takes the free kick. Corner taken left-footed
by Gavin Gunning from the right by-line, Shaun Hutchinson takes a shot. Clearance made by Madjid Bougherra.
Correction - 61:10 Steven Davis produces a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the goal.
61:10 Steven Davis takes a shot. Blocked by Stephen Craigan.
60:08 Steven Davis delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left channel. The referee blows for offside. Free kick
taken by Darren Randolph.
60:08 Booking Steve Jones goes into the book.
59:58 Steve Jones gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Sasa Papac.
59:47 Nikica Jelavic takes the chance to get an effort at goal.
57:53 Steven Davis takes a shot. Save by Darren Randolph.
56:26 Unfair challenge on Kyle Lafferty by Steve Jennings results in a free kick. Gregg Wylde crosses the ball in from the free
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.