A much-changed Rangers side cruised into the Scottish Cup quarter-finals with a commanding 3-0 win over Annan Athletic at Galabank.
Fit-again defender Filip Helander headed in the Gers’ opener after seven minutes before attackers Kemar Roofe and Fashion Sakala added further goals in the first half to end any hopes of the League Two side providing a shock.
Annan manager Peter Murphy had said the Light Blues would have “failed” if they did not put four or five goals past his side but it may well have been that and more as Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side negotiated the foul weather and artificial pitch as well as a battling home side with consummate professionalism.
The last time Rangers travelled to Annan was in 2013 when they met in the Third Division as the Light Blues began making their way back through the leagues after re-emerging in the bottom tier following financial meltdown.
This time the Ibrox men arrived in Annan as champions of Scotland, but boss Van Bronckhorst changed the whole team following the midweek win over Hibernian.
Notably on-loan Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey made his first start, Helander featured for the first time in five months after recovering from a knee injury and there was a debut for Mateusz Zukowski, the new signing from Lechia Gdansk.
Peculiarly, Annan, fourth in League Two, named manager Murphy, assistant Colin McMenamin and goalkeeping coach Jon Connolly among the 11 substitutes allowed.
Amid the swirling wind and rain, the visitors took a nerve-calming early lead when Helander powered in a header from a Borna Barisic corner, after his header from a first corner had been cleared off the line by Dominic Docherty.
Moments later, Barisic’s curling free-kick from 25 yards was palmed away by diving Annan keeper Greg Fleming as the visitors took control, with Ramsey and Roofe both missing the target with drives.
Conditions deteriorated but Rangers improved their advantage in the 22nd minute when Roofe guided in a second from 20 yards after taking a Scott Wright pass.
Sakala soon struck the bar having been set up by Zukowski but after Annan midfielder Tony Wallace volleyed over Jon McLaughlin’s bar, Amad Diallo sent the Zambia international racing down the left channel and he unexpectedly hammered the ball over Fleming’s head and into the far corner of the net, albeit there was doubt as to whether it was a cross or a shot.
Just before the break Ramsey had the ball in the net with a clever close-range finish from a Steve Davis cut-back but the offside flag was up.
The second half produced less action.
Annan’s Cammy Clark came close with a low drive from distance on the hour mark just before Rangers brought on Jack Simpson, Leon King and Alex Lowry for Ramsey, Helander and Davis.
In the 67th minute, with the jeopardy having left the match, Diallo skimmed the bar with a 20-yard drive before he left the field with Sakala, replaced by Cedric Itten and 19-year-old former Manchester United academy midfielder Charlie McCann, who was making his debut.
Rangers kept probing for a fourth – the impressive Lowry flashed a shot over the bar in the 83rd minute before McCann had an effort blocked by Fleming – but the scoreline remained unaltered.