Rangers endured a difficult afternoon against East Fife when they travelled to Methil during their “journey” from the bottom division back to the top flight of Scottish football back in 2014.

It took a last-minute penalty from Lee McCulloch to secure a narrow 1-0 victory and spare their blushes against their part-time League One rivals.

But they experienced no such problems in this Betfred Cup last 16 tie – a Jermain Defoe strike, an own goal from Ross Dunlop and a Joe Aribo strike saw them rack up a comfortable and deserved win.

So what did we learn as Rangers progressed to a quarter-final against Livingston away?


Steven Gerrard’s squad didn’t include regular starters Steven Davis, Jon Flanagan, Connor Goldson, Ryan Jack, Allan McGregor, Alfredo Morelos, James Tavernier. He also named Nikola Katic among his seven replacements. Resting so many key men against lower league opponents made sense with the first leg of the Europa League play-off against Legia Warsaw looming in Poland on Thursday. The aforementioned players should be fresh when that match kicks off.

But you could hardly call the Rangers side which took to the field an understrength one. Defoe started up front, Aribo, Greg Docherty and Glen Kamara formed the midfield and George Edmundson and Helander formed a new central defensive partnership together at the back. There was millions on pounds of talent on the field.

Gerrard, who made Andy King his 10th signing of the summer last week, now has the personnel he needs to mount challenges for all three domestic trophies and sustain a European campaign should they get past Warsaw in the coming fortnight.

The former Liverpool and England midfielder, too, has competition for places in every area of the pitch which should help to eradicate the inconsistency which proved Rangers’ undoing in the Ladbrokes Premiership last season. He also has adequate cover should, as will inevitably happen, players pick up injuries and suspensions.

There are bound to be a few departures before the transfer window closes at the end of this month. But an issue he may have now have, even if the Govan club are involved in four competitions, is keeping everyone in his happy if certain individuals aren’t featuring. Disharmony will derail their quest for silverware. Still, it is better to have too many options than too few.


It was difficult to gauge how Helander will fare at Rangers from this outing. No disrespect to Anton Dowds and Ryan Wallace, the twin East Fife strikeforce, but the Swedish centre half will have more demanding games in Scotland. That said, the first glimpse of the defender in competitive action was highly encouraging for supporters.

The 26-year-old – who was, at £3.5 million, the most expensive acquisition by the Ibrox club this summer – looked comfortable in possession, distributed the ball intelligently and read the game well. He set up the opening goal in the first-half when he burst upfield and supplied Defoe in the opposition area. He then forced Dunlop to turn the ball into his own net in the second. Having a hand in two goals on his debut will have boosted his confidence no end.

Will Helander start ahead of Edmundson and Katic alongside Goldson going forward? It was hard to tell on the evidence of such a one-sided 90 minutes. But he coped well with an away game on an artificial pitch in blustery conditions.


The former England striker’s monthly, weekly even, salary at Rangers is probably enough to pay the entire East Fife squad for an entire season. But he showed once again here that whatever he is receiving is money well spent.

The Ibrox club survived a couple of scares when the score was 0-0 early on. Not least when Aaron Dunsmore got on the end of a Wallace cross inside their six yard box. Wes Foderingham kept the visitors level with a save. If the home team had snatched the lead then the game could have turned out quite differently.

It took Defoe to break the deadlock and ease the tension. His first touch from a Helander through ball left Dunlop for dead and he left goalkeeper Jordan Hart no chance with his shot. It was his sixth goal in the seven games he has played in the 2019/20 campaign.

Defoe should have added another after being set up by Rangers substitute King in the second-half. But it was hard to fault his contribution. He worked tirelessly up front by himself and his quality in the final third once against made a real difference to his side.


Andy King and Brandon Barker, who both arrived on loan last week, and Jake Hastie came on in the second-half for Greg Stewart, Greg Docherty and Jordan Jones respectively and helped the away team see out a routine victory. They require game time, but look capable of contributing when they get it.


The travelling support outnumbered the home fans considerably in this encounter. But the East Fife players who were substituted all received a warm ovation when they were replaced in the second-half nevertheless. The Fife club played applause over the public address system in New Bayview as they left the field. The perfect way to make up for a lack of paying spectators.