Aaron Ramsey among three debutants as Rangers stroll to Scottish Cup victory in Annan

Aaron Ramsey is challenged by Annan Athletic’s Charlie Barnes during his first starting appearance for Rangers. (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

But as a step forward in making a telling contribution during his loan spell at Rangers, his role in an easy Scottish Cup fifth round victory over Annan Athletic was a welcome development for the 31-year-old.

Ramsey looked fit and sharp as he helped the Scottish champions cruise into the quarter-finals with first half goals from Filip Helander, Kemar Roofe and Fashion Sakala.

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He was replaced just after the hour mark, Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst satisfied to maintain the steady build-up of the Juventus playmaker’s match readiness after his two brief substitute outings.

Filip Helander marks his comeback from injury by heading Rangers in front after seven minutes against Annan Athletic at Galabank. (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group)

It was a night which afforded the Dutch coach the luxury of making 11 changes to his line-up, including a debut for 20-year-old Polish right-back Mateusz Zukowski, as he kept most of his big guns in reserve ahead of the first leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off tie against Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Thursday.

If Ramsey’s maiden start was the headline news from Rangers’ perspective, the return of Filip Helander was also significantly noteworthy.

The Swedish international defender, sidelined since September by a knee injury which required surgery, took just seven minutes to reannounce himself as he gave van Bronckhorst’s men the breakthrough.

Helander, whose last goal was the Old Firm winner at Ibrox at the start of the season, saw a header kept out by Dominic Docherty’s goal line clearance from one Ramsey corner. From the next, Ramsey had his first assist in a Rangers jersey as he again picked out Helander who this time directed his header through a clutch of bodies beyond Greg Fleming.

The Annan goalkeeper was beaten again in the 22nd minute by a fine finish from Roofe who cleverly turned on the edge of the box as he collected a Scott Wright cross before guiding a low shot into the left hand corner of the net.

The hosts had their moments – the lively Tony Wallace forced Jon McLaughlin into a routine save before volleying another effort over – but it was pretty much plain sailing for Rangers despite the turbulence presented by the swirling wind and rain in the first half.

There was an element of fortune to their third goal before the break, however, as Sakala latched onto Amad Diallo’s through ball down the left. The Zambian forward’s attempt to pick out a team-mate in the six yard box saw him unwittingly but spectacularly curl the ball over Fleming and into the far corner of the net.

The conditions relented in the second half as did the intensity of a tie which was effectively over.

Diallo, who never really imposed himself on proceedings, did clip the crossbar with an effort from distance but Annan avoided any further concession of goals. It was a gritty display from the League 2 side who emerged with credit despite never hinting at pulling off an upset.

There was another Rangers debut in the closing stages, 19-year-old Charlie McCann entering the fray. The diminutive midfielder was joined by fellow teenagers Leon King and Alex Lowry as Rangers saw the game out with a minimum of fuss.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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