As one managerial career began, another one ended as Mark Burchill’s dugout debut ended in defeat as a goal in either half gave Rangers a somewhat-flattering 2-0 victory at a half-empty Ibrox in what turned out to be Ally McCoist’s last match in charge.
Having succeeded John McGlynn in midweek, Burchill made just one change to the side that had lost to Falkirk last week as he restored Kyle Jacobs to the starting XI in place of Jack Beaumont and he watched on as his side made a storming start, coming agonisingly close to going in front inside four minutes as Gary Glen sent Danny Mullen clean through but Steve Simonsen produced a fine save to push his shot wide.
It proved a costly miss as Rangers moved in front on ten minutes when the ball was allowed to roll all the way across the box and Fraser Aird rattled in a first-time effort which fizzed back across goal and into the net. The loss of the opener didn’t faze the Lions too much and they continued to press, coming close with a half-chance as Jordan White beat Lee McCulloch in the air but his header failed to really trouble Simonsen. Glen then did well to ride a rough challenge and send Kyle through on goal but the Rangers keeper was out smartly to thwart the danger.
Rangers continued to push forward and Ian Black tried his luck from distance but his curling effort flew wide of target after neat build-up play from Aird. The young Canadian threatened again himself as he drove at the Lions defence and drilled in a decent low effort which Darren Jamieson did well to smother. Glen then tried his luck from a similar distance for Livi but his strike was saved with similar ease by Simonsen.
Livi were giving a good account of themselves in the first half and Shaun Rutherford found Mullen with a great crossfield ball but his header was cleared by Darren McGregor. Kyle then tried his luck from distance and Simonsen had to be alert to gather at the second attempt as White threatened to pounce on the rebound. White was then denied again by Simonsen, this time the keeper holding on to a powerful header from the big frontman to ensure his side went in at the interval with a narrow lead.
The second half opened as a real end-to-end affair and Aird, a constant threat, fired an effort into the side netting on 51 minutes as Rangers tried to step things up. Livi had Declan Gallagher to thank soon after for a vital block to stop Nicky Clark’s goalbound effort after a through ball from Kenny Miller. Livi maintained a threat of their own and Keaghan and Glen Iinked up well to find White but his low effort trundled wide.
Nicky Law was next to try his luck from distance with a curling effort which Jamieson did well to push to safety. The home side then passed up a golden chance to kill the game when the ball fell to full-back Lee Wallace 10 yards out but he could only blaze his effort high over the bar. Rangers were starting to take control with more concerted pressure on the Livi back line but the Lions were holding firm and still trying to create chances of their own. They came close as Keaghan did well to find Glen but he mishit his shot and it flew harmlessly wide before the ex-Hearts man elected to pass when presented with another shooting opportunity and McGregor was able to clear.
Law then passed up a good chance to put the game to bed as he was found by Nicky Clark’s flick-on but he could only drag his effort wide before Livi made their first change, bringing Myles Hippolyte on in place of Glen to try and add some more pace to their counter-attacks. Before the change could bear any fruit, though, Livi found themselves 2-0 down in unfortunate circumstances as Jamieson came to collect a whipped cross from Aird only for captain Simon Mensing to get to the ball first and divert it in his own, now unguarded, net.
The Lions, now in search of mere consolation for their afternoon’s efforts, continued to threaten and Hippolyte showed quick feet before seeing his attempted through-ball just intercepted as White threatened to run clear. Keaghan then came agonisingly close to pulling one back when he fired in a low effort which sub Dean Shiels did well to block. From the resulting corner, a goalmouth scramble ended with an effort from Mensing which came back off the post and went wide. Keaghan then curled in a free kick which was inches too high for White before the final act of the match saw play surge up the other end and Gallagher once again came to the rescue with a fine block to deny sub David Templeton as he tried to jink his way through.
Even in defeat, there was plenty to encourage the new boss as the relegation dogfight goes on, though it doesn’t get any easier for the rookie gaffer as next up for the Lions is a visit from unbeaten, and seemingly unstoppable, runaway leaders Hearts this Saturday. Let’s just enjoy the week’s festivities before we even contemplate that one, shall we? Merry Christmas, one and all!
Rangers: 2 Smith (Templeton 73), 4 Aird, 5 Wallace, 6 McCulloch, 7 Law, 8 Black (Shiels 81), 14 Clark, 18 Miller (Boyd 73), 23 Foster, 24 McGregor, 31 Simonsen
Subs not used: 3 Mohsni, 9 Daly, 16 Faure, 25 Robinson
Livingston: 1 Jamieson, 4 Mensing, 5 Fordyce, 6 Ky.Jacobs (Praprotnik 82), 7 Kn.Jacobs, 8 O'Brien,14 Gallagher, 18 White, 19 Glen (Hippolyte 74), 20 Mullen (McKenna 83), 31 Rutherford
Subs not used: 2 Sives, 9 Ogleby, 16 Beaumont, 21 Grant
Referee: Willie Collum
Match report: James Lothian