Date: 11th July 2016 at 8:55pm
Written by:

< MARCH >

Rangers were on the road at the start of March as they travelled to strugglers MK Dons, who were sitting just one place and six points above the dropzone, with Karl Robinson`s side heading into this fixture with just one win from their previous seven league matches, and two daws and a defeat in their most recent home matches.

After putting in one of their best performances of the season against Birmingham the week before, Rangers showed their frustrating side as they failed to really test their hosts, who took the lead shortly after the restart through defender Dean Lewington, whose powerful left-foot strike from the left sailed into the bottom corner.

Soon after Alex Smithies recorded a second penalty save in a matter of weeks, as Josh Murphy stepped up to the spot after he had been taken down by Paul Konchesky, but the on-loan Norwich man saw his attempt kept out by Smithies, who was really beginning to show his quality in an R`s shirt having taken over from Rob Green.

Any chance of a late equaliser was diminished in injury time as Nedum Onuoha fouled Robert Hall to give away a second penalty, and Ben Reeves made no mistake from the spot to give MK Dons a deserved 2-0 victory.

Two homes games would follow, the first of which was a midweek visit from Derby, who were still in with a shout for automatic promotion, but looked more likely to be heading for the play-offs as they sat in 5th place, with three wins a draw and a defeat under caretaker boss Darren Wassall, following Paul Clement`s departure.

To some surprise, it was arguably one of Rangers` most comfortable matches of the season at Loftus Road, as a strong Rams side were well below par, which the R`s took advantage of the record a straightforward 2-0 victory, and a fourth win for Hasselbaink in 18 matches since being installed back in mid-December.

Rangers took the lead on 24 minutes having been dominant throughout the opening period, as Junior Hoilett released James Perch down the left-hand side, who had seen an upturn in for since being switched from right back, and his cross into the box was expertly taken in the air first time by Tjaronn Chery on the penalty spot.

While having the majority of the play throughout the game, Rangers` advantage remained slim going into the final stage of the match, particularly with the attacking talent the Rams had at their disposal, but the match was put to bed five minutes from time thanks to Gabriele Angella`s finish at the back post.

Matt Phillips whipped in a free-kick from the left, which the Italian defender cushioned in to stamp the victory, which moved the R`s up to 11th place, nine points off the play-off positions with 10 games still to play.

With back-to-back home wins recorded for the first time, Rangers had the opportunity to make it three home wins on the bounce, not achieved since 2014, as Brentford made the short trip across the capital, coming in search of a league double over Rangers following their 1-0 victory at Griffin Park back at the end of October.

It was a match that couldn`t have played out any better for Hasselbaink, who led the side to an emphatic 3-0 win thanks to goals from Hoilett, Sebastien Polter and the in-form Chery.

The R`s opened the scoring with one of the goals of the season from Hoilett, who collected the ball just inside the Brentford half, before running towards the left hand side of the penalty area, and after cutting back to allow for a shooting opportunity with his right-foot, he guided a curling effort into the top corner for the lead.

That was the way it stayed until 25 minutes remaining, as Chery released Polter with a perfectly weighted ball into his path just inside the box, and the German forward`s sliding effort went under David Button in the Brentford goal to put Rangers firmly in the driving seat.

The icing on the cake was delivered by Chery 20 minutes from time as he took one touch to control a through ball from Alejandro Faurlin to find space in between two Brentford defenders, before hitting a well-placed strike into the bottom corner of the goal to take his tally for the season to eight, and four in his last six outings.

The final game of the month came away at Preston, who had been impressive since returning to the Championship the previous year, as they found themselves one place above Rangers in the league in 10th place, and just seven points off the play-offs, with one of the managers of the season in Simon Grayson.

Rangers got off to the perfect start after winning s corner on five minutes, which was whipped in from Faurlin on the right-hand side, and attacked by Polter to head in unmarked for goal number seven of the campaign in all competitions, and his second in as many games as he slowly began to win some of his doubters over.

A third win on the spin looked to be all but secure as the R`s went into stoppage time still with their one goal lead intact, which should have been two only for Chery to miss a glorious one-on-one opportunity in the second-half, and they were made to rue the missed chance as the hosts netted an equaliser on 92 minutes.

A cross into the box from the left found the head of Eoin Doyle, whose attempt had enough power to beat the outstretched Smithies to salvage a late draw for the Lilywhites at the death. The result saw Rangers stay in 11th spot, but the gap to the play-offs increase to 11 points with eight games of the season remaining.

League position: 11th (P38, W12, D15, L11)