Rangers sink Saints at Ibrox
Last Updated: 07/04/12 5:43pm
Lafferty: Celebrates his penalty
Rangers claimed a 3-1 win against 10-man St Mirren to strengthen their grasp on second spot in the SPL in a game that witnessed four penalties.
Celtic wrapped up the title at Kilmarnock earlier in the day but the clash at Ibrox also proved to be action-packed as goals from Lee McCulloch, Andy Little and Kyle Lafferty - from the spot - sealed the victory.
Paul McGowan's penalty for the Paisley club proved to be scant consolation as team-mate Jeroen Tesselaar saw red, while and McCulloch and Sone Aluko both failed to convert their own spot-kicks for Rangers.
Carlos Bocanegra returned from suspension and Salim Kerkar and Little also started for Rangers, with Ross Perry named on the bench and Steven Whittaker and Lee Wallace both injured.
Saints were boosted by the return of Kenny McLean, after he recovered from a broken collarbone, and Dougie Imrie was also drafted into the side.
Rangers fans demonstrated their opposition to the club being liquidated with a show of red cards and banners before kick-off.
The red cards were displayed again on the 18th and 72nd minutes to mark the year the club was founded, as a message to bidders vying for control of Rangers.
Ally McCoist's men then enjoyed the best possible start to the game when McCulloch met a Steven Davis pass and nodded past goalkeeper Craig Samson with just 47 seconds on the clock.
However, the home side did suffer a setback when skipper Davis was forced out of the action after just eight minutes and was replaced by young midfielder Rhys McCabe, with the armband passed to Bocanegra.
Rangers could have doubled their lead when Maurice Edu was tripped in the box by Steven Thomson but Aluko's penalty crashed off the post with 14 minutes gone.
Saints could have hauled themselves back into the match when McGowan tried to lob into an empty net, with goalkeeper Allan McGregor well off his line after making a headed clearance, but the effort dropped onto the top netting.
At the other end, Aluko had the chance to make amends for his earlier spot-kick miss when he raced into the box only to see his shot from 15 yards swatted wide by the goalkeeper.
Rangers had the net bulging again five minutes before the break when the ball broke for Little and he stroked past Samson to double the lead.
McGregor was then called into action almost immediately to deny Imrie with a superb one-handed save to tip the volley wide, before saving well from Nigel Hasselbaink.
The second half got off to a dramatic start when Saints were awarded a penalty four minutes after the restart for a Dorin Goian foul on Steven Thompson and McGowan rifled into the back of the net from 12 yards.
The referee then pointed to the spot again a minute later when Aluko was the victim of a challenge by Tesselaar.
Tesselaar was handed a red card for the incident but Rangers again failed to make the penalty count when McCulloch saw his effort punched to safety by Samson.
On what was proving to be a busy and quite remarkable afternoon for the match official, Collum handed out a fourth penalty - this time for a Lee Mair foul on McCulloch.
Lafferty - who had replaced Kerkar three minutes earlier - then showed how it was done from the spot when he lashed home to the relief of the home fans on the hour mark.
Following such an action-packed spell, it was no real surprise to see the match drop in tempo, with chances few and far between for both sides.
Andrew Mitchell came off the bench after 74 minutes when he replaced goalscorer Little to make his Ibrox debut.
Aluko saw an effort deflected wide in injury time, before Samson saved well from a powerful McCulloch shot, as Rangers held on to at least claim victory on the day they relinquished the SPL crown to rivals Celtic.