Rangers 4-0 Cove Rangers: Steven Gerrard’s side will face Celtic after victory in the third round of the Scottish Cup

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Any possibility of complacency that entered Rangers’ mind was clearly extinguished by the knowledge that Celtic was lurking.

By the time Nathan Patterson knocked out fourth place at 43 minutes against Cove’s withering part-timers, the job here was more than done. It was clinical, professional things.

Steven Gerrard’s squad started their Scottish Cup campaign by showing off some of the traits that made them Premiership champions.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard saw his side beat Cove Rangers 4-0 in the Scottish Cup

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard saw his side beat Cove Rangers 4-0 in the Scottish Cup

The next challenge in this competition should be a bit more demanding. A fourth round Old Firm match in Ibrox on the weekend of April 17 is a showpiece that will determine the remaining ambitions of this season at both clubs.

For Rangers, the chance to get one step closer to a Double by deflating their rivals again – with the goal of confirming Eddie Howe as manager this week – is an enticing prospect. With that on the horizon, it seems unlikely that the pedal will be released.

The drive shown here should certainly have pleased Gerrard. After the international break and all the emotion that preceded it to get back into action, Rangers paid their League One visitors a compliment for approaching the game with serious intent.

Granted, no further goals after the break, but it wasn’t because of a lack of pressure or effort. The score could have been doubled. Because it was a Jermain Defoe attack and two by Kemar Roofe preceded Patterson’s finish line.

Steven Davis (right) congratulated fellow veteran Jermain Defoe (left) after Defoe's opener

Steven Davis (right) congratulated fellow veteran Jermain Defoe (left) after Defoe's opener

Steven Davis (right) congratulated fellow veteran Jermain Defoe (left) after Defoe’s opener

With 20 points clear in the Eredivisie already won, Gerrard’s men were able to finish that campaign unbeaten. However, the Ibrox manager was clear about his priority. More cutlery. This cup.

They now know their way to Hampden after yesterday’s double draw. Beat Celtic and a home quarter-final against St Johnstone or Clyde will follow a week later.

For Paul Hartley and Cove, the consolation of that second period was negated without admitting again by an injury sustained by midfielder Jamie Masson. He was carried away from the field at 67 minutes – after a long delay for treatment – after catching his studs in the turf. It didn’t look good.

A serious absence for Masson would be a cruel footnote to the biggest match in the history of the ambitious Northeast outfit. Hartley is now turning his attention to Tuesday night’s visit to Clyde and boosting Cove’s hopes of promotion to the championship. The brief turnaround influenced his selection here.

Kemar Roofe swept past goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie to double the hostess' advantage

Kemar Roofe swept past goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie to double the hostess' advantage

Kemar Roofe swept past goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie to double the hostess’ advantage

Knocking against Bongani Zungu and Jack Simpson changed Gerrard’s plans, but he still used the squad. Scott Wright made his first start since signing with Aberdeen in early February, with Jon McLaughlin and Defoe returning to the line-up for the first time this year.

Gerrard was also able to pick Patterson and Calvin Bassey after Rangers appealed their six-game SFA suspensions for violating Covid regulations. Being ‘competitive’ was Cove’s primary goal at Ibrox. That soon translated into an effort to get out of their own half as traffic became predictably one-way.

Rangers had to wait until the 24th minute for their opener – beautifully taken – but they could easily have been a pair in the first quarter of the opening period. Just after becoming the most capped British player of all time, Steven Davis was in the mood to show off his evergreen passages.

Wright found a floating delivery. The forward’s sweet touch took him away from two defenders, but the final attack was deflected wide from back-tracking Ross Graham. Davis then perfectly measured a first-time daisy cutter for the overlapping Patterson. Roofe shot just wide of the cut-back.

Roofe then took his second from a rapid fire double the next minute to kill the game

Roofe then took his second from a rapid fire double the next minute to kill the game

Roofe then took his second from a rapid fire double the next minute to kill the game

The ex-Anderlecht and Leeds man came even closer when he stuck a shot into a post after a Davis corner broke his way. He didn’t have to wait long for a reward. But first it was up to Defoe.

Cove tries to play progressive football under Hartley. Building from the back is an important part of their approach. While that’s admirable and delivers long-term benefits, it’s easier if you don’t face the hunger of the Premiership champions. Their ambition contributed to a significant lack of rest.

Davis picked up a loose ball for the halfway line to find Glen Kamara. The Finnish midfielder hit a low pass into the feet of Defoe, who turned away from the slipping Fraser Fyvie towards goal.

In front of him, Roofe screamed for a small through ball. He would never get it. The sweetest right-foot drives flew past goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie from 25 yards ahead of Defoe’s fifth goal of the season. The flood was on.

Nathan Patterson (left) scored just before the break in what was the final goal of the game

Nathan Patterson (left) scored just before the break in what was the final goal of the game

Nathan Patterson (left) scored just before the break in what was the final goal of the game

Defoe sent another attempt just wide under pressure before Roofe took over. Once again, the opportunity had its roots in a Cove fault when Broque Watson and Daniel Higgins got tangled deep in their own territory. Bassey intervened and found Defoe.

His low cross took out Arfield and when McKenzie blocked the first shot, Roofe charged. His second – and the third of the Ibrox squad – followed barely 60 seconds later. Wright climbed a cute little pass from Arfield to drill low toward the first post. Roofe read it perfectly and ended up high and strong behind McKenzie.

The part-timers did not learn lessons. Higgins, wedged deep by a Rangers press, tried the riskiest passes through his own territory. Adam Livingstone was the target, but Patterson grabbed it before hitting his second senior goal.

After the break, Defoe saw a try blocked and shot another shot wide. Rangers continued to camp around the Cove box but couldn’t change the scoreboard any further, with Connor Goldson and substitute Cedric Itten among those who got close.

Match Facts: Rangers v Cove Rangers, Third Round of the Scottish Cup

Rangers (4-3-3): Jon McLaughlin; Nathan Patterson, Connor Goldson, Filip Helander, Calvin Bassey; Scott Arfield, Steven Davis (Ianis Hagi 46), Glen Kamara; Kemar Roofe (Cedric Itten 63), Jermain Defoe (Greg Stewart 73), Scott Wright.

Replacements not used: Allan McGregor (GK); Leon Balogun, Jack Simpson, Joe Aribo, Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos.

Yellow cards: Bassey 34, Davis 36.

Goals: Defoe 24, Roofe 31, 31, Patterson 43.

Manager: Steven Gerrard.

Cove Rangers (4-4-1-1): Stuart McKenzie; Daniel Higgins, Scott Ross, Ross Graham, Adam Livingstone; Connor Smith, Connor Scully, Fraser Fyvie, Jamie Masson (Kevin Hanratty 67); Broque Watson (Leighton McIntosh 65); Mitch Megginson (Rory McAllister 46).

Replacements not used: Balint Demus (GK); Ryan Strachan, Cammy Logan, Kieran Ngwenya, Blair Yule, Seb Ross.

Manager: Paul Hartley.

Referee: Kevin Clancy (Scotland).