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.