If anyone in the future looks at Third Division 2012-13 results, they may see Rangers' 3-0 victory over Annan Athletic on a cold but otherwise nondescript Tuesday night in December as just another step in the search for the title. That would be true in one sense, but it was also much more.
It was an evening when the club announced to fans that a hugely successful share issue raised 22.2 million pounds, ensuring Rangers have recovered enough from the financial meltdown to build a solid foundation for the coming years.
With an impressive five million pounds raised by fans a week before Christmas and 17 million more from professional investors, it was more than many suspected could be taken a few months ago. Only those with an axe to grind could see it in a negative light, and credit must go to CEO Charles Green for the force of will to see it through.
On the field it was equally noteworthy. From the first whistle Rangers looked a class above the opposition in the way fans had become accustomed to in previous years. It was only good goalkeeping, bad luck and poor finishing that kept the score to a solitary advantage at half-time - albeit from a terrific David Templeton strike.
But with a bizarre penalty and red card for a Lee Wallace ‘tackle’ in the second half, the Stadium - which had started to get sleepy - roared into life like a Saturn 5 rocket taking off on the way to the moon. Ibrox is a fantastic place to watch football at any time, but when it knows the players need support the noise level is unique.
Anyone can miss a penalty. You can miss a penalty on a public park with three spectators and a dog watching, but there is no doubt that the heightened passions and increased decibels helped Rangers keeper Neil Alexander more than Annan's Scott Chaplain. Much to the delight of the home support, Chaplain didn't hit the ball as cleanly as he would have liked and brought out a good save from Alexander.
The Light Blues might have been down to 10 men, but they were still a goal up and fans were expecting them to defend their advantage. But this team had higher ambitions. They are no longer the same bunch who started the season and even with one player less they knew they had the better of their opponents.
It was no idle boast and with electricity crackling between the stands they proved it. Andy Little managed Rangers’ second soon after the missed penalty with a typically clinical drive and Templeton wrapped it up with a beautiful curler.
On a purely subjective level it seemed like a turning point. This squad know they can play football better than the rest, and it only needed a moments concern for them to brush the opposition aside. Young Lewis Macleod and Barrie McKay once again showed why they are (with a little luck) going to be top footballers for more than a decade, while Templeton looks like the best piece of business since Green bought Rangers.
It was also great to see Fran Sandaza back, which was a shock considering he hadn’t even come on as a substitute in previous matches since his return to fitness. He didn’t play well, but deserves a bit of slack. Playing alone up-front while just back from an incident that meant you nearly lost an eye is not an easy task. He needs time to build confidence.
But that was a small negative on a night when, on and off the park, the Rangers support can finally see the solid foundations of the club being built brick by brick. There will be wolves at the door for many years to come, but the house is no longer built of straw. There will be a lot of huffing and puffing trying to blow it down, but with money and a team built around a group of very talented youngsters; the future looks secure.