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Rangers back up with Scottish Premiership big boys after claiming Championship title

Rangers 1-0 Dumbarton

By Ronnie Esplin

Rangers will be playing top flight football next season after clinching the Ladbrokes Championship with a narrow 1-0 home win over Dumbarton.

After re-emerging in the bottom tier of Scottish football in 2012 in the wake of their financial meltdown, the Govan club's trek to the Premiership ended with a second half goal from right-back James Tavernier in front of a packed but often subdued Ibrox.

The Gers fans, who have stuck by the club in huge numbers throughout the lower league campaigns, deserved to cheer long and loud into the Govan night although it was less than thrilling fare that they were served up.

Last season's failure to get out of the second tier was embarrassing for a club whose wage bill has dwarfed every team they have played in the three lower leagues but boss Mark Warburton ensured the remit he was given when he arrived last summer was achieved.

The former Brentford boss and his players will face much tougher opponents next season, although they will get a chance to gauge their level sooner than that, as they face traditional rivals Celtic in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park on Sunday week, following the Light Blues' Petrofac Cup final against Peterhead at the national stadium.

But for the supporters, the title win was to be enjoyed.

The loss of a late goal in the 3-3 draw at Raith Rovers on Saturday put title celebrations on hold but the first half revealed a sluggish Ibrox side.

An organised, dense Sons defence coped comfortably with a one-paced Rangers attack with keeper Jamie Ewings making comfortable saves from Harry Forrester's drive and Tavernier's free-kick from wide on the left which was drifting into the top corner.

Gers striker Kenny Miller flashed a shot from outside the box over the bar in the 37th minute, by which time the home fans' restlessness was growing.

Rangers stepped up the tempo at the start of the second half and were soon rewarded.

Ewings made a fine double save, first from midfielder Billy King's powerful drive and then from another Forrester effort, but in the 50th minute, as the home side kept up the pressure, he was eventually beaten when Tavernier, from close range, converted a pass from Jason Holt.

The tension-easing counter had Gers supporters in full voice for the first time and the home side began to push on with sustained menace.

Ewings saved Tavernier's header from Forrester's cross before Michael O'Halloran replaced Barrie McKay on the hour mark but in the 72nd minute, on a rare break, it was Dumbarton striker Christian Nade who tested Gers keeper Wes Foderingham with a drive, as Ibrox held its breath.

Ewings saved with his feet from O'Halloran in the 86th minute and nerves again enveloped the ground in the final moments but a roar accompanied the final whistle as Rangers fans hailed Warburton and his players, but they all know the real hard work has only begun.

rangers: Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace, Forrester (Shiels 78), Halliday, Holt, King, Miller (Clark 86), McKay (O'Halloran 62).

Goals: Tavernier 50

Subs not used: Bell, Ball, Law, Zelalem.

dumbarton: Ewings, Saunders, Buchanan, Wright, Docherty, Taggart, Routledge, Fleming (McCallum 83), Lindsay (Gallagher 61), Waters (Cawley 67), Nade.

Goals: None

Subs not used: Brown, Heffernan, Heh.

Man of the match: Tavernier

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Steven McLean

Rangers highs and lows:

High: Emerge from the ashes of their financial meltdown in July 2012 to claim a 2-1 Challenge Cup win at Brechin's Glebe Park in their first match as a newco.

Low: Fall to one of their worst ever defeats as part-timers Stirling Albion win 1-0 at Forthbank at the start of October.

High: A goalless draw with Montrose is enough to secure the Third Division title for Ally McCoist's men in March 2013.

Low: Gers launch a run of 39 games without defeat - only for Raith Rovers to stun the Ibrox men with an extra-time winner in the final of the Challenge Cup in April 2014.

High: The Scottish League One title is wrapped up as the unbeaten champions claim the third-tier title by a massive 39 points.

Low: Alloa beat Gers in the 3-2 Petrofac Training Cup semi-final win while McCoist is axed, with Kenny McDowall placed in temporary charge.

Low: February 2015 sees the Old Firm meet for the first time in three years but Celtic stroll into the League Cup final.

High: Dave King's boardroom coup and Stuart McCall is brought in to replace McDowall.

Low: McCall's side humiliated by Motherwell in play-off final.

High: Mark Warburton is hired and breaks Bill Struth's 95-year-old record by winning his first 11 games in charge.

High: A 4-2 win over Hibs at Ibrox in December 2015 sparks a 15-game unbeaten run.

High: Rangers' four-year nightmare is ended as they clinch promotion back to the top-flight with a 1-0 win over Dumbarton.

Belfast Telegraph


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