Kemar Roofe showed why Michael Beale talked up his importance to Rangers with the opening goal in a 2-0 cinch Premiership win over Ross County in Dingwall.
The Gers boss spoke on Friday about the 30-year-old striker and attacker Tom Lawrence being key to his plans this season despite nine new signings and Roofe, starting for the first time in 16 months, repaid that faith after 22 minutes with a close-range strike.
Skipper James Tavernier added a delightful second four minutes later with a clever finish which ultimately took the three points south.
The relatively stress-free victory was a boost for Beale’s side ahead of their crucial Champions League play-off game against PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday night.
The tie is sitting at 2-2 from the first leg at Ibrox and Roofe was not included in the squad for this round due to Beale’s concern about him playing three games in a week.
The former Leeds player has been troubled with injuries at Ibrox but after two substitute appearances this season, he started for the first time since April 2022, while Lawrence, out for a year with a knee injury, was on the bench.
Midfielders John Lundstram and Sam Lammers also came in while Jose Cifuentes, Ryan Jack and Abdallah Sima started among the substitutes, while midfielder Yan Dhanda replaced Kyle Turner for Malky Mackay’s side.
There was little action early on but in the 10th minute a header from Gers striker Cyriel Dessers was saved by the legs of County keeper Ross Laidlaw and the same player headed over from the resulting corner.
Rangers stepped up the pressure and from Borna Barisic’s corner from the right, Roofe shrugged off the attentions of County defender James Brown to volley in at the back post for his first goal since February.
Tavernier’s terrific counter soon afterwards came when he robbed George Harmon in midfielder and strode forward before sending the ball dipping over Laidlaw from 20 yards, his third goal in six matches this season, underlining his own influence on the Govan outfit.
The match had swung away from the home side in a matter of minutes and Laidlaw did well to claw a curling Lammers effort from distance away from the top corner just before the break.
County stormed into attack after the break.
Striker Jordan White missed a great chance by heading a Dhanda cross past the post from six yards, while unmarked.
On the hour mark Roofe and Lammers made way for Sima and Rabbi Matondo as Beale injected real pace into his attack.
The changes had the desired effect and the Ibrox side’s threat was re-established.
Laidlaw tipped a powerful Matondo drive over the bar before saving a Sima header moments later, with the home side defending the subsequent corners.
Lawrence came on for his long-awaited return along with Brazilian striker Danilo, with Dessers and Todd Cantwell going off.
Ross County had brought on Will Nightingale, Turner, Josh Reid and Eamonn Brophy but could not find a way back albeit Sima did well to take the ball off Nightingale’s head yards from the Rangers goal.
In the 84th minute Matondo missed the target with an angled-shot but there was no harm done.
Rangers will have harder days in the Highlands but they have to regroup quickly for their high-stakes trip to the Netherlands.