IT was a night where Giovanni van Bronckhorst gave his fringe players a chance to catch the eye and stake their claim.

Alex Lowry wasn’t the one that the Rangers manager needed to really prove his worth. It was the Auchenhowie kid who would shine at Ibrox, however, as Stirling Albion were overcome in the Scottish Cup.

His debut was marked with the opening goal. Others from James Tavernier, Cedric Itten and Fashion Sakala would follow as Rangers eased into the fifth round and took their first steps on the road to Hampden.

It was as straightforward and as low-key as was expected before a ball was kicked. It wasn’t a memorable occasion but those that returned to Ibrox will be glad to have had the chance to take their seats once again following the latest round of Covid regulations.

Rangers’ record in cup competitions in recent years has been abject. It was the one major failing of Steven Gerrard’s tenure and it is the area where there is the most room for improvement for Van Bronckhorst.

He would see the champions humbled by Hibernian at Hampden on the day before he took office in November. Now he must have his sights set on the silverware come May.

The fact that his unbeaten run as manager continued here was no surprise. Darren Young’s side could dare to dream of a cup shock but it was never on the cards as the gulf in class and resources showed at Ibrox.

It was a return to winning ways for Rangers. The points dropped at Pittodrie in midweek may yet prove costly in the Premiership, but the champions ensured their issues weren’t compounded as they prepare for tougher tests against Livingston and Ross County and the most difficult of all away to Celtic next month.

There are places up for grabs for that hat-trick of fixtures. Van Bronckhorst’s options may be limited at present due to injury issues and Joe Aribo’s outings at the African Cup of Nations but he was still able to mix it up in terms of his team selection.

Some names would come as a bolt from the blue. Jack Simpson started at left-back, while Brandon Barker was given a berth on the right of the Rangers attack.

Itten earned a start following his return from a frustrating spell at Greuther Furth. He should have converted from close range in the opening stages and it was evident that he is still searching for his scoring touch after just two goals in the Bundesliga.

Lowry’s inclusion in the matchday squad was confirmed on Thursday afternoon. On Friday evening, he would make his debut for the champions.

His introduction came earlier than many would have expected and he could have hoped for. Out of adversity, he would grab his opportunity.

The circumstances were unfortunate for Van Bronckhorst and Ianis Hagi as the Romanian was forced off after just ten minutes. He would pay the price for an inadvertent collision with Jordan McGregor and received treatment on the park before hobbling back round to the tunnel.

Van Bronckhorst could have played it safe and introduced Scott Wright or James Sands to replace Hagi but he would put his faith in Lowry. It was a call that paid dividends after a Man of the Match display.

The playmaker was composed in possession and showed several neat touches in his opening minutes. He clearly wasn’t daunted by the occasion and it was he who would beat Blair Currie to set Rangers on their way to victory.

A combination with Juninho Bacuna saw Lowry collect the ball inside the area. His finish was low and well-placed to Currie’s right and his smiles said it all.

As his more experienced team-mates toiled to make their presence felt, Lowry was a gallus, bright operator as he drifted between the lines of red shirts and looked to create.

For the likes of Simpson and Barker, this may well be their final outings at Ibrox. There will be plenty more to come for Lowry, however, as he continues his progression within the academy system now aiming to produce the next Nathan Patterson.

The second goal of the night came from one of Van Bronckhorst’s stalwarts. The third should have, too, but Tavernier would see his second penalty saved after converting first time around.

Currie had no chance with a fine effort after McGregor had been penalised for handball and Tavernier’s fifth goal of the campaign came via a familiar method as Rangers doubled their lead.

When John Beaton pointed to the spot once again – this time for a soft foul from Mason Hancock on Barker – it looked like Rangers would have three goals to show for their efforts. Currie saved well on this occasion, though, as Tavernier again went to the keeper’s right.

That miss was never going to prove costly for Rangers. On the hour mark – and just before Leon King was introduced to take over from Leon Balogun to bring an end to his return to action – Itten finally got his goal as he finished well from close range.

Van Bronckhorst’s next change allowed him to get minutes into the legs of Kemar Roofe. This was his first outing since December 9 and he will have a role to play whilst Alfredo Morelos is absent on international duty with Colombian in the coming weeks.

The closing stages were a case of game management for Rangers. A handful of chances were carved out and passed up but they were ultimately inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

There was time for a fourth goal at least. Sakala had been bright in flashes and a burst down the left opened the target. With a shot across Currie, he found the net.

Victory had been secured a long time ago for Rangers. That will always be the main positive and Van Bronckhorst could be satisfied in that regard as Albion failed to write their names in the record books at Ibrox.

Time will tell if this is the first step towards the silverware for Van Bronckhorst. Rangers must now focus on striding forward in the Premiership title race.