RANGERS 1 ST MIRREN 0
RANGERS issued a Co-operative Insurance Cup final warning to St Mirren as Kris Boyd denied Gus MacPhersons side a place in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals.
The Buddies had battled hard for 85 minutes to keep the Ibrox goal-machine quiet but switched off for just one moment and were punished as Boyd netted his 22nd goal of the season.
St Mirren, who take on Walter Smiths team again next month in the Co-operative Insurance Cup Final at Hampden, had hoped to gain a morale-boosting result by knocking the defending Active Nations Scottish Cup holders out of the competition at the fifth round stage.
But they were left deflated once more when, after 175 minutes of goalless action following the 0-0 draw in the first game of this tie at St Mirren Park, they allowed Rangers to snatch the vital goal that sets up a home tie with Dundee United in the next round.
The defeat also means St Mirren are still searching for their first win in Glasgows south side since November 1991, when Kevin McGowne scored the only goal.
But MacPherson will hope his players can raise a similar spirited showing when they face off at the National Stadium.
Saints winger Steven Robb declared himself fit to face the SPL champions earlier this week having put in his finest display in black and white last weekend against Dundee United. His optimism, however, proved to be a false dawn and he sat out the trip to Govan with hamstring trouble.
MacPherson, however, was able to call on centre-half Chris Innes, who overcame a groin pull to take his place at the back of the managers now trademark 3-5-2 formation.
The Light Blues were first to seriously threaten as Boyd collected the ball on halfway before spinning to put Steven Naismith through on goal after seven minutes. Thankfully for the boisterous travelling band of Saints supporters squeezed in between the Govan and Broomloan Road stands, he pushed his shot wide of Paul Gallachers goal frame.
But the Buddies were not without their own attacking instincts in the opening stages as both Steven Thomson and David Barron hit unsuccessful shots from distance.
Michael Higdon was involved in heated debate with MacPherson for much of the first half as the boss tried to coax more from his hitman. He very nearly got it when the Scouse striker met Andy Dormans corner on 18 minutes but his firm header sailed over the target.
The opening period, however, was pretty much a damp squib and neither team seemed capable of playing through the midfield with any sort of menace.
The lethargic nature of the game almost became St Mirrens undoing five minutes before half-time. Rangers were content to stroke passes around Saints box, patiently waiting for an opening. One such opportunity arrived when Broadfoot knocked a sideways pass to Steven Davis, who was accommodated the time and space to shoot by the Paisley side. He sent his shot over the top but it was certainly close enough to worry Gallacher.
The home side thought they had opened the scoring three minutes into the second half as Boyd turned Nacho Novos shot past Gallacher but the Saints back-three had stepped up and the strike was chalked off for offside.
But the visitors were keen to attack themselves and came close when Lee Mair headed just over from another Dorman corner.
MacPherson was forced into a rethink with 18 minutes left when Jack Ross went down and he replaced the full-back with Stephen ODonnell, while Rangers brought on Miller for Novo.
Davis had proved to be Rangers biggest threat and he came close to grabbing the games opening strike as he burst from midfield to shoot low at Gallacher but the keeper parried before Barron hacked the ball clear.
And with just 10 minutes left on the Ibrox clock, MacPherson looked to put more pressure on the Scottish Cup holders as 30,000 Rangers fans began to show their displeasure at their teams lackadaisical performance, throwing on Craig Dargo for Higdon.
But it was a ploy that was never even given a the slightest chance to work as Boyd put his side in front.
Rangers skipper Davie Weir pumped a long ball forward into the St Mirren defence. However, the Paisley rearguard failed to deal with the bounce of the ball and the Scotland striker pounced to blast the ball past a helpless Gallacher.
The home side could have extended their lead in the final minutes as Miller broke into the box but he fired wide of target.
Steven Naismith also had another chance to further punish St Mirren but he brought out another decent stop from the Saints keeper.
RANGERS (4-4-2): McGregor, Broadfoot, Weir, Bougherra, Smith; Naismith, Davis, Edu, Lafferty, Boyd (Fleck 89), Novo (Miller 70). Subs not used: Alexander, Whittaker, Wilson.
ST MIRREN (3-5-2): Gallacher, Innes, Potter, Mair; Ross (ODonnell 72), Thomson, Murray (Carrey 88), Dorman, Barron; Mehmet, Higdon (Dargo 81). Subs not used: Howard, Ramsay.