On the strangest of title-deciding nights, there were no outward signs at Ibrox that Rangers had just relinquished their status as Scottish champions.
Supporters were not glued anxiously to mobile phones to check if Dundee United were able to get the late winner at Tannadice necessary to delay Celtic’s coronation until the final day of the season.
Fans were not venting their frustration over the disastrous post winter break slump by Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s players that saw a six point advantage turn into a six point deficit to their fierce foes.
Scott Wright buried the opener from close range for Rangers on Wednesday night
FACT BOX TITLE
Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor 7; Tavernier 7, Goldson 7, Bassey 7, Barisic 6 (Balogun 46); Lundstram 7 (Davis 62), Kamara 7; S Wright 7 (Arfield 73), Lowry 8, Kent 7 (Sakala 62); Aribo 6 (Diallo 46).
Subs not used: McLaughlin, Sands, King, Ramsey.
Goals: Wright 13, Tavernier pen 29, Sakala 82, Diallo 90.
Ross County (4-2-3-1: Laidlaw 6; Watson 6, Baldwin 6, Iacovitti 6, Vokins 6; Callachan 5 (White 61), Tillson 6; Spittal 5 (Cancola 61) (Paton 70), Burroughs 6 (Charles-Cook 70); Hungbo 6; Samuel 5.
Subs not used: Munro, Sims, Drysdale, M Wright, MacKinnon.
Booked: Vokins, Watson, Iacovitti.
Goal: White 72.
Referee: Andrew Dallas.
Man of the Match: Alex Lowry.
Instead, there was again a positive party vibe around the Govan ground, fuelled by the giddy excitement at what this remarkable campaign could yet yield for Rangers, as Rangers swatted aside Ross County with the minimum of fuss in their final home game of the season.
Scott Wright’s early goal and a James Tavernier’s penalty had the hosts two up within the opening 29 minutes. County substitute Jordan White did manage to pull a goal back after the break but Rangers struck again twice through Fashion Sakala and Amad Diallo.
The added bonus for van Bronckhorst at the end of this fine performance is that it looked like his side had no fresh injury worries ahead of a season-defining 10 days.
A Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt awaits in Seville on Wednesday May 18 after Saturday’s meaningless final league match of the season at Tynecastle is out of the way.
Then three days after facing the Bundesliga side, van Bronckhorst’s men face a Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden.
With Celtic adding the title to the League Cup they won in December, there could yet be a rare dénouement to the season: one that leaves both halves of Glasgow’s old and bitter divide satisfied.
Dutchman van Bronckhorst had made seven changes from the side that beat Dundee United 2-0 here at Ibrox on Sunday.
Out went Jon McLaughlin, Leon King, James Sands, Steven Davis, Aaron Ramsey, Scott Arfield and Sakala.
In came Allan McGregor, Calvin Bassey, John Lundstram, Glen Kamara, Alex Lowry, Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo.
That meant 10 out of the 11 players who started the Europa League semi final second leg 3-1 win against LB Leipzig were on the park from the start against County, with Lowry the exception, featuring instead of Ryan Jack.
Rangers captain James Tavernier added a second from the penalty spot in 29th minute
Rangers fans were particularly pleased to see the return of Aribo who was left groggy after taking a freekick full force the face against Leipzig.
With Alfredo Morelos out until the end of the season, and still no sign of Kemar Roofe being fit, Nigeria international Aribo will likely be deployed out of position up front against Frankfurt.
Ross County manager Malky Mackay made four changes after the weekend’s disappointing 1-0 home loss to Motherwell.
Connor Randall dropped out of the match day squad while David Cancola, Jordan White and top scorer Regan Charles-Cook all dropped to the bench. In came Keith Watson, Jack Burroughs, Dominic Samuel and Joseph Hungbo.
After dominating the opening five minutes, Aribo was first to threaten the County goal but he saw his 18 yard shot deflected wide for a corner.
Then the talented Lowry showed his youthful confidence by trying his luck from outside the box but his shot flew wide.
Rangers should have taken a seventh minute lead when Aribo’s dancing feet on the right side of the penalty box saw him glide past Alex Iacovitti.
He picked out the supporting Lundstram who should have burst the net but he shot straight at Ross Laidlaw.
But it was only a matter of time before Rangers took the lead and the goal their play deserved arrived on 13 minutes.
Barisic swung over a corner from the left and Goldson flicked the ball into the six yard box. The alert Wright was there to divert the ball over the line for 1-0.
Rangers sealed the win with late goals from subs Fashion Sakala (above) and Amad Diallo
Rangers were keeping the ball for fun and Goldson was next to take a pot-shot at the visiting goal His effort flew over the bar but the Europa League finalists did not have to wait much longer to extend their lead.
Tavernier exchanged passes with Lowry before bursting into the box from the right. Iacovitti halted his progress in the box for a stone wall penalty to Rangers.
Tavernier made his usual customary clinical job, despatching the ball into the right corner for his 18th goal of a remarkable season.
Rangers were looking in the mood and County were simply unable to get anywhere near the hosts in the first half.
Lowry, who is a hugely exciting young player, is not afraid to take a chance and his latest shot stung the palms of County keeper Laidlaw but there were no more goals before the break.
At half time the Rangers Women’s team paraded their hard-earned silverware around Ibrox after winning their first-ever SWPL title.
A 0-0 draw with Glasgow City on Sunday at Auchenhowie saw them end City’s 14-year reign as champions of Scotland.
The Rangers B team then showed off the Glasgow Cup they won 3-1 against Queens Park at Broadwood Stadium on Monday.
If Rangers fans were aware that Celtic had just taken the lead at Tannadice through Giorgos Giakoumakis they did not show it.
Instead, the PA system played Belinda Carlisle’s *Heaven is a Place on Earth*, the song Ibrox uses as a hymn of praise to Lundstram.
After the break, Barisic and Aribo did not reappear with Leon Balogun and Diallo coming on for Rangers.
Balogun soon came within inches of making it three when his header from a Tavernier struck the right post.
News of Dylan Levitt’s equaliser for Dundee United changed nothing here but Motherwell going 2-1 up against Hearts meant County could not qualify for Europe unless they won.
White pulled a goal back with a lovely curled shot high into the Rangers net from outside the box. It was County’s first shot on target.
But after Sakala’s diving header from a Tavernier corner, Amad Diallo completed the scoring by turning home at the back post.
With one final blast of Andrew Dallas’ whistle the final home match of the season was over and Ibrox rose as one to acclaim their players.
With Sunday’s final league match of the season a dead rubber at Tynecastle, van Brockhorst is likely to make wholesale changes for the trip along the M8.
The next time the Rangers fans see most of these players in action will be in the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium in Seville as they try and etch their names indelibly in Ibrox folklore.