Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Gers target top flight after sealing title win

RANGERS 3 - AIRDRIE 0

Champion feeling: Lee McCulloch (far right) and Andrew Little celebrate
Champion feeling: Lee McCulloch (far right) and Andrew Little celebrate

Ally McCoist watched his Rangers side take the latest step in the Ibrox club's "recovery" by clinching the Scottish League One title with a 3-0 home win over Airdrie then looked forward to the final stage of the journey next season.

Skipper Lee McCulloch, 35, helped himself to a first-half hat-trick, scoring a brace from the spot before netting a third from open play as the Light Blues forged 26 points ahead of second-placed Dunfermline with eight games remaining, to continue their ascent back to the top flight.

Rangers, who started at the bottom of Scottish league football after lapsing into administration and then liquidation in 2012, are now only one title win away from the Scottish Premiership and the Gers boss is looking forward to the Championship campaign.

He said: "We are absolutely delighted, not only to wrap the title up but with the manner we wrapped it up, particularly in the first half, which was really pleasing and we are thrilled for the players, the staff and the supporters.

"It has been a terrific league campaign and I thought we finished it well. I think 26 wins and two draws is a great achievement, the players deserve an enormous amount of credit, as do the supporters.

"These are all championships that we have to win, to get back to where we want to be, in the top flight.

"These are stages in our recovery which must be met so I think it is only fair that they should be celebrated as you would winning any league.

"There are a lot of boys in the dressing room winning their first league, the majority of players will go through their careers and not win a league. The Championship could and hopefully will be a great league next year so we are certainly planning for that and hopefully we can strengthen and continue to build for the championship and for the years after that."

McCoist (pictured) lavished praise on veteran McCulloch, whose hat-trick came from the centre-half position.

The former Rangers striker said: "I actually scored a quicker hat-trick in Vladikavkaz in a Champions League match than the time Lee scored in tonight.

"But I wasn't playing centre-half to be fair. I think the last person to do it here was Paul Gascoigne on the day we won the title against Aberdeen – although I draw the line at saying they were similar players.

"But it's an unbelievable achievement. McCulloch epitomises the spirit that has been required within the club at the beginning of the journey back."

Any lingering nerves were swept away with less than two minutes on the clock when Airdrie keeper Grant Adam, formerly a Gers player, clattered into Little inside the box.

McCulloch slammed in the spot-kick and from them on Rangers took control.

Rangers' second penalty came in the 20th minute when David Templeton proved too tricky for Airdrie defender Gregor Buchanan, and again McCulloch gave Adam no chance with a thunderous drive from 12 yards.

Four minutes before the break McCulloch's shot from 14 yards sneaked in at the far post.

Little, who had come into the side for Dean Shiels, limped off a minute before the break but this was a night of celebration for the Gers.

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