Bates gives Rangers victory over Kilmarnock
Rangers 1 Kilmarnock 0
Rangers capitalised on the Steven Gerrard feel-good factor as they struck late to grab a crucial 1-0 win over Kilmarnock in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The former Liverpool and England skipper was confirmed as the new Gers boss on Friday after signing a four-year deal.
He was not there, however, to see Steve Clarke’s men frustrate the Ibrox faithful for long periods.
But the Gers support – so despondent after last week’s 5-0 Old Firm hammering – were cheering again as David Bates grabbed the late winner as they closed to within a point of second-placed rivals Aberdeen.
It was a harsh blow on Killie, who had worked so hard to frustrate the hosts. Their first loss to Rangers this season denied them draw which would have sealed fifth place.
Gerrard was unveiled, to the delight of 7,000 fans who flooded into Ibrox to welcome the former Liverpool skipper’s arrival.
But with the 37-year-old not due to start work until June 1, it has been left to Jimmy Nicholl and Jonatan Johansson to see the side through to the end of what has been yet another tumultuous campaign.
Fan group Union Bears launched a silent protest during the last home game against Hearts following their side’s abject display against Celtic at Hampden.
But the Gerrard news ensured last week’s latest Hoops humiliation was put to the back of their minds as the atmosphere crackled.
Jamie Murphy came close to ratcheting up the noise levels as he was left unmarked in the hole just outside Killie’s box 11 minutes in but the winger shot just wide of the target.
Aaron Tshibola was given the chance to take heap fresh doubt into the mind of the hosts as Kris Boyd’s flick-on from a long Stephen O’Donnell throw dropped for him outside the box but the on-loan Aston Villa youngster skied his effort.
There was another warning as Eamonn Brophy flashed a ball across goal, a fraction ahead of the on-rushing Boyd.
It took the quick reactions of Jak Alnwick to keep Killie out just before the half-hour mark as Boyd hit a powerful free-kick. The keeper did well just to palm the ball out but was up smartly to foil Kirk Broadfoot on the rebound.
Gers did finish the half on the charge and only the woodwork denied them the interval lead as Murphy got his head to Andy Halliday’s whipped delivery from the left but saw his effort come back off the crossbar.
Nicholl switched Jason Cummings for Ross McCrorie at the change of ends and nearly got an instant reward as the teenager almost found the top corner within seconds of play resuming, before pushing another effort just wide soon after.
It looked like the hosts would have to settle for a point but with just five minutes remaining man-of-the-match Bates – making his return after six weeks out injured – bundled home Sean Goss’ deep cross to seal victory.
The visitors could have snatched something at the end but Greg Kiltie’s header flew just over.