3 talking points as Rangers inspired by Alex Lowry thump Stirling Albion in Scottish Cup rout

Teenage debutant Alex Lowry inspired a much-changed Rangers to Scottish Cup fourth round victory over Stirling Albion.

The 18-year-old replaced the injured Ianis Hagi – a fresh concern for the Ibrox side – and set Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side on their way to a straightforward victory at Ibrox.

James Tavernier added a second from the penalty spot, only to pass up the chance to convert another minutes later.

And, in surely another first to add to Lowry’s bow, Cedric Itten became surely the first player to ever score against Bayern Munich and Stirling Albion in the same season.

The forward, recently recalled from a Bundesliga loan with Greuther Furth, added the third before Fashion Sakala raced through late on for a fourth.

It was to prove a much less stressful evening for the Ibrox side than what they endured at Pittodrie on Monday, but the loss of Hagi to injury may just prove troublesome with vitally important fixtures to come.

Changes were expected on the Rangers team sheet but even then, the sudden reappearance of Brandon Barker was surprising.

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The forgotten winger had made only one match day squad all season but this was his first outing on the pitch for Rangers since getting two minutes against Motherwell just over a year ago.

He joined fellow lesser-seens Juninho Bacuna and Cedric Itten in the starting line-up, which was rejigged into a 3-5-2 shape against a conservative Binos setup.

The home side took on an even more unfamiliar look when Ianis Hagi was forced off early following a painful collision with xx in the box.

Alex Lowry came on for his debut and Rangers should’ve been ahead moments later.

James Tavernier’s cross travelled all the way to Itten arriving at the back post but his improvised effort – with a hint of handball – was clawed away by Blair Currie.

It came agonisingly close to crossing the line but the Binos escaped – and responded with a warning shot of their own.

Ray Grant turned smartly on the right hand side of the box and curled an effort that just didn’t drop quite enough as it sailed towards the top corner.

A number in blue had been below-par and it took the introduction of 18-year-old Lowry to provide a spark.

The teenager jinked forward elegantly to open up the visitors and slotted home with poise after exchanging passes with Bacuna.

That changed the complexion of the tie in an instant and before long Rangers were two clear.

A bouncing corner struck the arm of a flummoxed Jordan McGregor and up stepped Tavernier to fire beyond Currie.

The Binos were suddenly in danger of abandoning their early composure, conceding another spot-kick as Mason Hancock wiped out Barker with a doomed swipe at a clearance.

Currie got close to Tavernier’s first and this time, diving to his right, he kept the Rangers captain out.

The second period took an exhaustingly familiar patter for the visitors, as they fought manfully from base camp on the edge of their 18-yard box.

Tavernier threatened a third as he popped up near the penalty spot following more neat play from Lowry but his shot was blocked by red shirts throwing themselves in front of the ball.

Most of Rangers’ good work involved Lowry on the inside right, the youngster looking at ease in his role as the home side’s creator-in-chief for the evening.

When the third did inevitably arrive, it was Itten who was rewarded for a tireless shift on his return to the side, turning Graham Cummins from John Lundstram’s pass and lashing beyond Currie.

The contest was over but Rangers refused to let up as the minutes ticked away, pressing on for a fourth.

And Sakala, who recently vowed not to get a haircut until he found the net in 2022, booked a trip to the barbers as he powered his way past a leggy backline and fired home with menace to bring the scoring a close.

3 talking points

Lowry makes his mark

The greatest compliment to pay this exciting young talent’s debut is he immediately began making the game look simple in a half where plenty of his experienced team-mates were doing anything but.

Rangers were off colour, if not lacking in endeavour, until Lowry opened up Albion with a purposeful run and finish, teed up by Bacuna’s perfectly weighted pass.

Ally McCoist summarised it best at the interval in that it’ll be a moment the kid will never forget.

On this evidence, though, there’ll be plenty more to come.

Hagi concern

Striking the balance between necessary rotation and ensuring just enough continuity is a tricky one for managers when your team are the overwhelming favourites.

Van Bronckhorst went light on first-team regulars, those in need of game-time aside, but fate dictated it was one of his key men who was struck by injury.

From the moment Ianis Hagi hit the deck early in the first-half, it looked unlikely he would continue.

That he was able to walk away from a painful, but very much accidental, collision will offer Van Bronckhorst some encouragement until the medics get a look at the Romanian’s knee.

But with Hagi shouldering extra creative responsibility in the absence of Joe Aribo, he would be among the last the Rangers will have felt he could afford to lose.

Binos battle

How different it may have been for the League Two side had Ray Grant’s early effort have found the underside of Jon McLaughlin’s crossbar with the game goalless.

Don’t underestimate the power of having something to hold onto in ties such as these but it wasn’t to be for the Stirling battlers.

Typically, they went behind just minutes later and the writing was on the wall from there.

The Binos visibly tired after the interval – shuttling endlessly back and forth in a shape will do that to you – but stuck to their unenviable task manfully throughout.

They could easily have capitulated after Itten struck a decisive third but, to their credit, they did nothing of the sort.

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