Rangers sealed their place in the Scottish FA Youth Cup semi-final with a dominant 5-1 victory over Falkirk at Ibrox.
Although the score line suggests a one-sided demolition, Falkirk gave the home side a scare when Kevin O’Hara opened the scoring from the penalty spot, knocking in the rebound when his original effort was saved.
It proved to be a false dawn for the Bairns however, and two Jamie Barjonas goals of supreme quality put Rangers in control at half-time. It was one-way traffic from there and second-half strikes from Zak Rudden, Billy Gilmour, and Jack Thomson sealed the win.
The game started slowly as Rangers struggled to breakdown a defensively minded Falkirk side. There was no question they had come to Ibrox to try and frustrate Rangers’ normal quick pass-and-move game, with a 5-4-1 formation that left little room for the Gers to manoeuvre.
By leaving O’Hara up front on his own they were relying on keeping Rangers at bay and hoping for a goal on the break, using wingbacks Mark Finlayson and Cieran Dunne as an attacking threat, but for most of the first half they were stuck in defensive roles.
For the first 20 minutes the plan worked. Denied by the offside trap on a couple of occasions, Rangers failed to trouble the Falkirk keeper Lewis McMinn, who was only called into action to clear a long ball over the top from Ross McCrorie as an impatient Rangers went route one.
Falkirk’s patience bore fruit as they then got the break they were looking for. Striving to get back to stop a Rangers counter attack through Josh Jeffries, Finlayson won the ball and started a counter-counter-attack of their own. O’Hara eventually forced his way into the Rangers box and striked the ball off Aidan Wilson’s arm.
The referee blew for a penalty, but it looked a harsh decision with the Gers defender’s arm by his side and no intent obvious. O’Hara’s first attempt was saved by Robby McCrorie diving to his left but he couldn’t prevent the Falkirk striker burying the rebound.
Rangers certainly didn’t let their heads drop after conceding however and they evened the game up within five minutes in spectacular fashion.
Having forced a corner, Liam Burt whipped in a cross at the second attempt and found Wilson looking to make up for giving away the penalty. His diving header struck the post, before being half cleared out to Gers midfielder Barjonas 30-yards from goal.
Without hesitation the Spaniard struck a sweet effort into the far top corner, leaving McMinn rooted.
It was something special for the watching crowd to savour, and he had them cheering again on the half hour mark.
Jeffries seemed to be chasing a lost cause on the right flank, somehow keeping the ball in play on the by-line and finding a low cross towards Rudden.He was being too tightly marked to make anything of it but the Falkirk defence’s clearance again fell to Barjonas.
Significantly closer to goal this time, he picked his spot and again placed it in the corner away from McMinn who once more could only watch it nestle in the net.
Falkirk were on the ropes now and when Gilmour’s delicious chipped through ball sent Rudden in it looked like being 3-1 but for a dramatic saving tackle from Jonny Mitchell. It was fantastic last ditch defending from the Bairn’s centre half.
The away side weren’t completely out of it yet and knowing they had to go for an equaliser gave some freedom to wingbacks Finlayson and Dunne to push forward. They combined to almost great effect just before half-time with Dunne’s cross finding Finlayson unmarked in the box but his header was straight at McCrorie.