Boyd double helps Gers close gap
Two goals from Kris Boyd helped Rangers beat Motherwell 3-1 at Ibrox and move to within one point of Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic.
Buoyed by the news their Old Firm rivals had been held to a 1-1 draw away to Hearts in the early kick-off, the Gers came out the traps flying and were 2-0 up in the first ten minutes. Andrius Velicka, making his first start since August, scrambled home the first after some sloppy defending, before Boyd fired a tremendous volley past Graeme Smith.
A stunning John Sutton strike pulled one back for Motherwell just before half-time, but Boyd's second-half penalty sealed the win for Rangers.
"I was pleased to get an early goal as I felt this would be an awkward game for us," said Rangers manager Walter Smith. "We were obviously delighted when we got the third to give us that little bit of cushion."
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee said: "I was not surprised they started the way they did but I was disappointed to lose two goals in that period. My players couldn't handle Kris Boyd and he was the big difference between the two teams."
Walter Smith sprung a few surprises before the game with Steven Smith, who had not played a league game since December 2006, and Velicka making rare starts.
Rangers' quick passing movements stretched Motherwell from the start and it took just two minutes for the Ibrox side to take the lead through Velicka. Smith's cross from the left was headed on by Boyd to the far post where it was knocked into the path of the Lithuanian, who bundled it over the line.
A stunning long-range volley from Boyd doubled the Gers lead in the tenth minute. The forward took a touch after collecting Steven Whittaker's high pass over the Motherwell defence, before unleashing a powerful dipping half-volley which sailed past the helpless Smith in goal.
Four minutes later Velicka could have made it three when he beat the offside trap, but Smith raced off his line to clear with the Lithuanian bearing down on him.
Sutton pulled one back for Motherwell against the run of play eight minutes before half-time with a tremendous 30-yard volley. The ball sat up well for the Englishman, who blasted the ball into the top corner of the net past Neil Alexander.
The goal stunned the Ibrox crowd, but Rangers settled well and Smith produced a good save from Boyd's snap-shot from just inside the box in the 43rd minute. Smith again came to the rescue for Motherwell in the 54th minute, when he did well to parry Boyd's vicious volley from a Steven Davis cross.
Rangers were awarded a penalty in the 63rd minute after Pedro Mendes was tripped in the box by McLean. Boyd stepped up to take it and sent Smith the wrong way to finish low in the bottom left-hand corner for his 28th goal of the season.
McLean then redeemed himself minutes later when he raced back to stop substitute Nacho Novo getting a crisp shot away after finding himself clear in the box. The rest of the game was played at a leisurely pace as Rangers got the points to cut the gap at the top.
At Tynecastle, Celtic took the lead after just 30 seconds when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fired in a shot from the edge of the box. Bruno Aguiar's superb free-kick from 35-yards levelled matters 13 minutes before half-time, but despite late pressure Csaba Lazlo's side could not find a winner.
A Kevin Kyle hat-trick secured a 3-0 win and three vital points for Kilmarnock against rock-bottom Falkirk in their relegation battle at Rugby Park.
Eslewhere, Aberdeen scored late on to defeat Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0, while Dundee United defeated Hamilton Academical 1-0.