Rangers 1, Stranraer 1
It was the feast of Stephen and management team of Aitken and Farrell can certainly dine out for a long time after this historic result on Thursday.
None of the 350 or so Stranraer fans shoehorned into a little corner of Ibrox on Boxing Day could ever have imagined they would be following their team to to take on the Glasgow giants on league business. And even given the team’s impressive recent form, most would have known the magnitude of the task.
Manager Stephen Aitken obviously knew his charges’ normal expansive, free-flowing system had to be tempered in the early stages. Stranraer tucked in, allowing Rangers plenty of possession but in areas that would not hurt them.
With only three minutes on the clock the home team came close when Nick Clark fired in a deep cross but the ball cannoned of skipper Frank McKeown’s head and went inches past Mitchell’s post.
Stranraer did not look overawed and when Martin Grehan chipped over the top of the Rangers rear-guard to Jamie Longworth it looked promising but his strike was well wide.
There was controversy after Docherty initially lost possession to Black but recovered enough to make a sliding passback to Mitchell but, with Daly bearing down on him, he appeared to get his foot stuck and was forced to handle in his box. The referee awarded the free kick and correctly booked the Blues keeper but, to the bewilderment of all, then insisted Rangers take the kick from outside the penalty area, Wallace striking a fierce drive that took a deflection in a pack of bodies and was kicked clear by Rumsby.
Mitchell had to be at his best to thwart MacLeod who hit a first time shot that the keeper stretched to fingertip over the bar with just over 30 minutes played.
Four minutes later the home side got the breakthrough but once again the referee baffled most in the stadium. Rangers were beginning to run out of ideas as yet another hopeful ball was played into a packed Stranraer penalty box. Clark tried the spectacular overhead kick with McKeown in attendance. Clark went down and the whistler pointed to the spot much to the disbelief of everyone in the ground. Rangers skipper McCulloch stepped up to make no mistake and give his team the lead at the break.
Stranraer started the second half looking to have recovered from the disappointment of the goal and were playing with composure. Bell hit a 25-yard pass to Stirling who went on a run inside, jinking past a static midfield before unleashing a tremendous shot that had Bell scrambling.
Rangers fans were less than pleased with the way proceedings were going as Stranraer kept up their neat play, hoping they would get one chance to get a share of the spoils and indeed score the club’s first goal against the Glasgow giants in five meetings stretching back to 1948.
Scott Robertson epitomised the spirit in the Stranraer camp, narrowly heading past from a corner then showing the energy to get back and resume his defensive duties knocking the ball out for a throw-in at the other end.
With the large neon scoreboard showing 90 minutes elapsed, then came the moment that no Stranraer fans will never forget. Rumsby, who had been a colossus in the heart of the defence, dispossessed Daly and played a short ball to the ever-willing Gallagher. He played the ball wide just over the halfway line to substitute Kinnaird, who picked out Stirling. He fired across goal to Longworth unmarked at the back post. He took one touch and fired high past Bell for his 19th goal of the season to a chorus of boos from home fans but amazement, celebration and jubilation from the nearby Stranraer faithful.
The goal and the result was no more than Stranraer deserved as they soaked up early Rangers pressure and came out in the second half to have a real go at the league leaders
Rangers: Bell, Faure, Mohsni, Peralta (Aird 56), Wallace, McCulloch, Clark (Little 56), Black, Daly, MacLeod (Templeton 72), Law.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Marc Docherty, Steven Bell (Kinnaird 86), Scott Rumsby, Frank McKeown, Sean Winter (Borris 73), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan (David McKenna 65), Jamie Longworth, Andrew Stirling.
Referee: Andrew Dallas #