Gers beat Dons to close in on title

Lafferty’s previous contributions against Aberdeen may have been
somewhat dubious – namely the ‘cheating’ tag he earned for a
feigned headbutt last season – but he made the headlines for the
right reasons at Ibrox tonight. Lafferty’s effort was sandwiched
between strikes from Steven Davis and Kenny Miller, with a Darren
Mackie goal nothing more than scant consolation for the Dons as
Rangers moved 13 points clear at the top of the table. The Rangers
teamsheet probably raised a few eyebrows ahead of kick-off as top
goalscorer Kris Boyd was named on the bench and Lafferty drafted
into the team in the wide left position, with Steven Naismith
partnering Miller up front. The omission of Boyd – who has now
failed to find the back of the net in 540 minutes of SPL football –
was the only change from the side who ground out an unconvincing
victory over Hamilton at the weekend, the goalscoring honours going
to Maurice Edu on that occasion. Having lost to struggling
Kilmarnock, it was no real surprise to see Dons boss Mark McGhee
make changes for the visit to Glasgow, with Steven MacLean back
from suspension and Mackie and Jerel Ifil also added to the side.
Fraser Fyvie – who picked up a knock against Killie on Sunday – was
named among the substitutes, along with Derek Young and Stuart
Duff. Rangers looked lively in the opening spell with Miller and
Naismith combining well enough up front without causing too many
problems for Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield, who had kept
clean-sheets in both of the previous meetings with the champions
this season. There were a few meaty challenges from both sides and
Davide Grassi picked up the first booking after just nine minutes
for a crunching tackle on Lee McCulloch but Rangers could not
capitalise on the resultant free-kick with Davis failing to find a
blue jersey in the packed goalmouth. The home side continued to
press and a long ball from David Weir found Lafferty in space in
the box but he connected awkwardly and hooked over from just
outside the six-yard box. Rangers’ hard work eventually paid off
when they surged into the lead with 24 minutes gone. Edu did well
to win possession before Naismith prodded into the path of Davis
who left Langfield with no chance when he unleashed a ferocious
shot from 25 yards. Aberdeen had struggled to create much in the
way of chances and, with half-time approaching, Mackie resorted to
an ambitious long-range shot that fell well wide of target. Davis
attempted to turn provider after the restart when his cross picked
out Lafferty only for the big Northern Irishman to nod over.
Lafferty then displayed some impressive skill on the left flank
before setting up the shot for Sasa Papac but he was also
off-target and stabbed high over the crossbar. It was Lafferty,
himself, who had the net bulging after 65 minutes when he collected
from Davis and went on a surging run into the box before slotting
low into the bottom corner of the net. But the Dons pulled a goal
back just three minutes later when MacLean dinked a cross over
Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor and Mackie beat Steven Whittaker
to the ball to slide over the line. Those celebrations were
short-lived and hopes of a Dons comeback were dealt a blow as
Rangers claimed their third of the night with 15 minutes to go. A
Davis corner found Danny Wilson and the youngster nodded on for
Miller to lash beyond the grasp of Langfield and all but secure the
points for Walter Smith’s men. The win means Rangers can
potentially secure a second successive title in the first game
after the league split providing they pick up another victory at
Dundee United next midweek.