Alfredo Morelos restricted to the bench as Rangers coast past 10-man Hamilton
Rangers again proved they can cope without Alfredo Morelos as they eased to a 2-0 win over 10-man Hamilton at the Foys Stadium.
The Colombian was back in Steven Gerrard’s squad for the trip to Lanarkshire after being dropped for last week’s Kilmarnock victory.
But despite redoubling his efforts in training after having his focus his questioned by Steven Gerrard, the Lille target was left on the bench as goals from Ianis Hagi and James Tavernier killed off Brian Rice’s team.
Gerrard had warned Morelos – Rangers’ top scorer in each of the last three campaigns – that reputation would no longer guarantee him a game now that he has Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten for competition.
But it is unlikely that Ryan Kent will be dropped any time soon if the Englishman keeps up his current run of sparkling form as he inspired Rangers to a win, which moves them three points clear at the top.
The winger did not add to the three goals he has netted this term but only a series of wayward finishes prevented him adding some assist numbers to his statistics.
Accies were looking to build on last weekend’s derby win over Motherwell and it is just as well they got that result as without it they would be propping up the table.
Rangers slipped up at Livingston on their last outing on plastic but there was no such difficulties here.
Hagi made himself an instant fans favourite with his one-man Europa League rescue mission against Braga last year.
But he had struggled in domestic action so far this campaign and lost his place for last week’s win over Kilmarnock.
Itten’s calf injury gave offered a reprieve against Accies and he made the most of it with the opener after 15 minutes.
Scott Martin’s slip in the corner allowed Borna Barisic to pull the ball back for Steven Davis. Kemar Roofe met the Northern Irishman’s cross with a header which looped over Ryan Fulton before crashing against the crossbar.
Both the keeper and Scott McMann both desperately swung at fresh air but it Hagi who connected as he rammed home.
The second followed five minutes later but it was cruel on Fulton as he got down smartly to turn away a low effort from Kent, only to watch with horror as the ball flew straight to Tavernier who prodded home another rebound.
Rangers were in full flow now and only poor finishing saw them fail to add to their lead before the break as Hagi and Roofe both wasted decent openings after more magic from Kent.
Brandon Barker drew a groan of frustration from Gerrard as he rifled into the side-netting at the start of the second period.
But Rangers manager’s frown turned to a look of utter bemusement in the 64th minute when referee Willie Collum refused to give a penalty after a blatant two-handed push from McMann on Roofe.
Jon McLaughlin was given the nod over Allan McGregor to start in goal for the visitors and his concentration levels were finally tested after 72 minutes of inaction as Reegan Mimnaugh found Shaun Want with a near-post corner.
But the Scotland keeper was switched on to claw away the header.
Accies’ day got worse with 14 minutes left when McMann – already on a booking for a first-half tug on Kent – collected a second after barging over Barker.