James Tavernier strikes again as Rangers return to summit
James Tavernier continued his scoring hot streak as he helped fire Rangers back to the top of the table after a 2-0 win over Ross County.
The skipper has now netted eight goals in as many games after converting yet another penalty.
Birthday boy Brandon Barker made the points safe with two minutes left as he celebrated turning 24 by firing just his second Rangers goal.
After sparking in recent wins over Willem II, Motherwell and Galatasaray, this was a more subdued display from Steven Gerrard’s team.
But it was enough to nudge the Light Blues back to the Premiership summit after Celtic had briefly taken over at the top with their win in Perth.
Staggies boss Stewart Kettlewell spent the afternoon in the Ibrox stands as he began a three-match touchline ban for mouthing off about referee John Beaton.
And he will regret the late missed chances his side failed to take as they missed the chance to move into the top six.
They had an early opening when Regan Charles-Cook flashed a ball across goal but it was out of reach for Michael Gardyne.
And that was about all County saw of the Rangers box in the first period as they were driven back to the opposite end of the pitch by the dominant hosts.
Coll Donaldson’s trip on Ryan Kent handed Borna Barisic a free-kick opportunity but his strike clipped the wall as it soared over.
But there was a more costly foul from the County centre-back on 17 minutes as he barged Alfredo Morelos in the back as the Colombian chased Tavernier’s dinked ball over the top.
That presented Tavernier with his fourth spot-kick in as many games and he continued his run of goals, firing straight down the middle as Ross Laidlaw dived left.
Josh Reid’s short pass cost Morris a booking on 22 minutes as the Staggies defender was forced to haul down Ryan Kent before the Gers ace burst through on goal.
Morelos muscled his way into some space on the edge of the box but the low strike was straight at Laidlaw while Connor Goldson powered a header just over the bar from a Barisic corner.
The last action of the opening half saw a Kent shot take a nick off a defender before creeping wide.
There was another vital block from Donaldson seven minutes after the change of ends as he appeared from nowhere to stop Morelos scoring what looked like a certain second.
County had a close shave with conceding another penalty as Reid slid on Kent as the winger danced his way to the box.
Laidlaw was on his toes too, tipping over a Balogun strike from Kent’s corner but Morelos really should have netted as he fired over from the corner of the six yard box.
There was concern for Gerrard on the hour mark when Barisic went down in a heap after a coming together with Charles-Cook. With the Old Firm clash two weeks away, the Ibrox boss was taking no chances with the Croatia left-back and immediately whipped him off to be replaced by Calvin Bassey.
Rangers had not really shifted out of second gear at any point but a moment of complacency very nearly cost them as Ross Draper stripped Kent of the ball but then overcooked a pass into Ross Stewart’s feet when the striker only had McLaughlin to beat.
Morris had his heart in his mouth as his headed back-pass flew just wide of his own net after a mix-up with Laidlaw.
County were waiting for their one big chance to cause a shock and it came with 10 minutes left but Donaldson wasted a free-header six yards out from a Reid free-kick.
And hope was extinguished on 88 minutes as substitute Barker raced onto Ianis Hagi’s ball over the top before driving past Laidlaw.