Boyd bags brace as Gers go second
Boyd netted in the opening minute and again in the second half to bring his tally for the season to seven goals and - despite a late consolation from Stephen O'Donnell - his brace ensured Rangers moved ahead of Hibernian with a game in hand. Boyd may be tipped for a departure if cash-strapped Rangers offload key personnel in January but supporters made their feelings clear at this match with a banner declaring: "Boyd must stay, Boyd must play, home and away." He was drafted back into the team, along with Nacho Novo and John Fleck, following the midweek draw with Unirea Urziceni. There was also an Ibrox debut for 17-year-old Danny Wilson, who retained his place in the heart of defence after stealing the show in his maiden Champions League outing in Bucharest. Kyle Lafferty and Steven Smith were both out with food poisoning and Kevin Thomson failed to make the squad after missing training on Friday, paving the way for youngsters Stephen Stirling and Kyle Hutton to be named on the bench. Saints headed into the match without Lee Mair, who was suspended following his red card last week, but boosted by the return of Steven Thomson from illness. Boyd had been given his usual spot on the bench for the Champions League clash on Wednesday night and made the most of his return to the first team when he fired Rangers into the lead with just 17 seconds on the clock. Fleck's shot from the edge of the area was parried by Paul Gallacher straight to Novo, he touched on to Boyd and the striker could not have been better place to rifle home from inside the six-yard box. Boyd then turned provider when he slipped a pass to Steven Naismith, who tried his luck with an angled drive but, this time, the goalkeeper dealt with the danger better and was able to smother. At the other end, Allan McGregor was called into action to push a well-struck shot from Andy Dorman past his right-hand post, with the Saints man unleashing from 20 yards out. Rangers should have doubled their advantage when Gallacher blocked a shot from distance from Fleck and Boyd pounced on the rebound but he was uncharacteristically off-target and lashed narrowly past the upright. With Rangers failing to capitalise on their early lead, the visitors could have hauled themselves level again when Dorman picked out Garry Brady and his chip came off the inside of the post and back into play before being hastily scrambled to safety. The Buddies were gaining in confidence and threatened again when Billy Mehmet cut inside from the left and drilled a low shot towards goal that McGregor did well to block. Rangers then squandered a decent chance when Fleck's corner was inadvertently knocked on by Jack Ross to the feet of Lee McCulloch but he volleyed well over from close range to the groans of the home crowd who knew he should have done better. Steven Whittaker was another who missed training and he was withdrawn at the interval for DaMarcus Beasley, with Steven Davis moving to right-back. Rangers pressed for a second goal and a long ball from Davis intended for Boyd was intercepted by Hugh Murray and his clearance clipped the crossbar as the Paisley side breathed a sigh of relief. But Gallacher was picking the ball out of the back of the net with 57 minutes gone. Beasley's pass found Novo and he rolled across the face of goal to where Boyd was waiting to stab home from close range. The striker was then denied his hat-trick when he threw himself in front of a Davis cross only to see his header scrape the crossbar on the way over. Keen to avoid any danger of a late fightback, Rangers peppered the Saints goal with chances in the closing stages in a bid to kill the game off. Fleck turned and dispatched a powerful shot from the edge of the box that Gallacher managed to gather, before the goalkeeper punched a Boyd shot to safety. Boyd then rattled a shot off the keeper's legs before Saints pulled a goal back with two minutes to go when substitute O'Donnell fired home amid claims of handball from furious Rangers players. But it was too little too late as Walter Smith's men managed to hold on for the win that takes them to within a point of leaders Celtic ahead of their game at Falkirk tomorrow.
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