Scott Arfield grabbed his first career hat-trick as Rangers eased to a 3-0 win over Motherwell at Fir Park.
The midfielder benefited from some woeful Motherwell defending as he struck twice before the break to move into double figures for the season.
And the former Falkirk, Huddersfield and Burnley man added number 11 on 60 minutes to claim his first-ever match ball as Rangers – who had boss Steven Gerrard confined to a seat in the stand – continued their post-Old Firm revival with their second three-goal win since last Sunday’s derby defeat at Celtic Park.
While they now trail the champions-elect by 11 points, Stephen Robinson’s rejuvenated Well passed up the chance to record a sixth straight home win for the first time in 44 years after playing a central role in their own downfall with some shocking stuff at the back.
Meanwhile, there were more shameful scenes to add to Scotland’s season of controversy when referee Nick Walsh had to briefly stop the first-half action to ask stewards and police to surround a group of Well fans after a lighter was hurled at Rangers captain James Tavernier.
It was hardly an action-packed opening but Motherwell certainly edged the early exchanges.
Jake Hastie headed wide from Richard Tait’s cross while Tom Aldred came closer only to see his attempt drift beyond the far post.
Without suspended top scorer Alfredo Morelos, Rangers looked short on a focal point.
But out of nowhere they grabbed the opener as Motherwell self-destructed on 22 minutes.
Daniel Candeias’ ball into Morelos’ replacement Jermain Defoe should never have made it through to the Englishman. But having been allowed to dribble into his feet, matters were compounded when Aldred got his feet in a muddle as he tried to cut out Defoe’s through-ball to Arfield and only succeeded in nudging it into the Rangers midfielder’s path.
Arfield could not believe his luck as he fired past Mark Gillespie.
The calamitous defending continued on 39 minutes as Well gifted the visitors a second goal. Charles Dunne should have fired the ball down the line but instead gave it to David Turnbull even though he was being closely marked by Candeias.
The winger was in like a flash to steal the ball and shift it to Ryan Jack, who teed up Arfield to net with the coolest of finishes.
The clash was Hastie’s chance to show Gers what they were missing out on after they reportedly pulled the plug on a rumoured pre-contract swoop – but the highly-rated youngster could only fire straight at McGregor after cutting inside Glen Kamara.
Instead the plaudits went to Arfield as he completed his treble on the hour mark.
Rangers’ pressing again forced the hosts into a mistake as Alex Gorrin was stripped of the ball in midfield. Defoe stepped away from Turnbull and pressed on into the box before unselfishly squaring for the Canada international to tap home.
Defoe should have added number four with 20 minutes left after another Dunne blunder but was foiled by Gillespie’s save.
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