The ease of their 2-0 victory over a strangely colourless Ross County means they can reserve their real muscle for the sinew-straining matter of their Champions League play-off decider. Job done, then, though Michael Beale expected more. From his opponents. Pre-match, he posited that there could be value to be derived from seeing his defence tested in the Highlands. As a precursor to what they will be required to withstand from PSV Eindhoven this Wednesday. Following the “grit” they exhibited as they dug-out a 2-2 draw against the Dutch in last week’s home first leg.
There wasn’t much in the way of grit necessary from Rangers. Thanks, in large part, to the glitter that Kemar Roofe and James Tavernier sprinkled with stonking first half goals in a lunch-time kick-off wherein Malky Mackay’s men did not fashion a solitary effort on target. A headed sitter from Jordan White, who inexplicably nodded wide immediately after the interval, ensuring a largely one-sided contest wasn’t exactly of the compelling variety. A handful of Ross Laidlaw saves across the afternoon sparing the home side the thumping that Rangers’ superiority could easily have delivered.
The scoring spoils they did produce were enough to sate their appetites, though, in proving the tastiest of morsels to chew down on. A first start for Roofe in 16 months allowed the forward - played wide left in another new front three in which Cyriel Dessers was the focal point and the anonymous Sam Lammers on the other flank - had the Englishman quickly back in the old routine. He plays, he scores, was essentially Beale’s take. On a player whose continuing reintegration means he was not included in the Ibrox squad for the PSV tie.
Roofe’s athleticism and acrobatic poise that was central to him bagging Rangers’ 22nd minute opener - his first goal since April - might leave Beale privately a little rueful over the forward’s unavailability in Eindhoven. The 30-year-old had no right to make anything of a Borna Barisic corner sent deep as he tussled with James Brown at the back post. But he somehow manoeuvred himself space and, falling back, produced a bicycle-style kick, virtually as he seemed horizontal, to smack the ball in.
Four minutes later the indominable Tavernier topped that. “An incredible goal”, Beale described the right-back’s 104th for his club. As opposed to hyperbole, if anything this didn’t do full justice to the 22-yard strike. Nicking the ball away from George Harmon in his own half, the Rangers captain mosied upfield and as it opened up for him at the edge of the area, chopped his foot under the ball to send it arcing into the top corner as if pulled there by invisible strings.
There was never any genuine sense of jeopardy for the visitors thereafter. Beale was able to use his matchday squad to the fullest as a result. That included a late appearance for Tom Lawrence, introduced for Todd Cantwell in the 73rd minute. It provided the attacker with his first competitive minutes since almost exactly a year ago. As with Roofe, he has not been listed in the squad for the club’s Champions League play-off as he builds his match fitness. It remains to be seen if those that are in that travelling pool have enough in their armoury for Rangers to slay PSV once more. No real clues were provided on that front in the Highlands.