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Story: Neil Smith (Rangers FC), Photos: Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

July 21, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Highlanders capped off their season Monday night with a historic friendly against the Glasgow Rangers FC at the University of Victoria’s Centennial Stadium, eventually dropping a 2-1 decision in front of 5,735 fans.

Rangers FC Ian Black (left) uses some deft footwork to take the ball from Victoria’s Alex Rowley (right) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

On a beautiful night in Victoria, British Columbia the Light Blues produced a decent display to beat Steve Simonson’s Highlanders side and once again it was an excellent workout for Ally McCoist’s Rangers squad ahead of the 2014/15 season.

The Highlanders were fit and strong but they also had flair in their side with their goal scorer Cam Hundal, in particular, a threat from the left wing.

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Victoria’s Alex Rowley drives through midfield between Glasgow’s Nicky Clark (left) and Robbie Crawford (right) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Rangers also had good performances on the night with Ian Black working hard and pulling the strings in the middle of the park on his return to the starting eleven.

Indeed, it was the former Hearts man who set up the opening goal for Calum Gallagher who struck with just 10 minutes on the clock.

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Rangers FC Marius Zaliukas (left) and Victoria’s Carlo Basso (right) battle for the ball at mid-field (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Poor defending then led to the Highlanders’ quick equaliser and it was Hundell who used his speed and strength to hold off Darren McGregor before he produced a cool finish.

The leveller came against the run of play but the Rangers got what proved to be the winner before the half hour mark when Nicky Clark used his poacher’s instincts to strike from close range.

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Glasgow’s Darren McGregor (left) and Victoria’s Carlo Basso (right) come togehter in the fight for possession (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

As has been the case at every game on this tour, Victoria added a touch of showbiz to the pre-match build-up with kilted men playing bagpipes welcoming the players as they walked out for kick-off. Four skydivers then landed perfectly on the pitch with one presenting the referee with the match ball before singers passionately belted out the national anthems.

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A member of the Victoria Skydiving Club team parachutes into the match with the game ball (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Highlanders, like Ventura County Fusion and Sacramento Republic, should be commended for the effort they have put in to their games against Rangers and the warm welcomes they have given to supporters who clearly enjoyed tonight’s occasion.

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Vancouver residents and die-hard Rangers FC supporters (L to R) Scott Robertson, Robyn Greig, and Scott Greig shake hands with Rangers FC First Team Coach Ian Durrant (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Light Blues, however, were not here to enjoy the hospitality, they were here to win and tonight’s game was a chance for several players to show that they are ready to battle for a place in Ally McCoist’s s team this season.

The manager made ten changes to his side that started against Sacramento for the first of two games here in Canada with only Marius Zaliukas retaining his place at the back.

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Glasgow’s Dean Shiels looks for an opportunity to score (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

As a result the Rangers looked hungry from the first whistle and after just four minutes they created the first chance of the match with Clark and Dean Shiels linking up well before the latter curled an effort inches wide from 20 yards.

On 10 minutes the visitors got their noses in front. Stand-in skipper Stevie Smith made good progress down the left and his chipped pass found Black who burst into the box before cutting it back to Gallagher who poked the ball home from a couple of yards.

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Victoria’s Alex Rowley tries to speed by Glasgow defender Kyle Hutton (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The goal was no more than Rangers deserved after their positive start but they were then guilty of conceding a really poor equaliser. The lively Hundal received a simple through pass and he shrugged off a challenge from McGregor before slotting the ball inside Steve Simonsen’s near post.

This gave the Highlanders a lift and after Zaliukas headed over from a Black free kick, Kevin Brown tried his luck with a shot from 30 yards which Simonsen watched closely as it fizzed over his crossbar.

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Victoria’s Jordie Hughes (right) looks to gain possession of the ball from Rangers FC Darren McGregor (left) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

On 29 minutes Rangers regained their one-goal advantage and it was Clark who got it. Gallagher’s low shot from distance was spilled by keeper Brandon Watson and Clark slid in to roll the ball into the net.

The League One champs were now back in control of proceedings and they should have got their third not long after the half hour mark.

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Victoria’s Blair Sturrock (right) goes for a run while Alex Rowley (left) looks on from the ground (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Shiels produced a brilliant turn and pass to Clark who could have shot himself from a tight angle but instead he played it across goal to Gallagher. It looked certain the youngster would hit the net again but Highlander goalkeeper Elliott Mitrou got across his line quickly to make a save which kept his side in the game.

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Glasgow’s Dean Shiels puts the move on Victoria’s Alex Rowley (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

For the second friendly in a row, McCoist could only watch on as one his players went off with an injury minutes before half time. Against Sacramento it was Richard Foster with a hamstring problem but tonight it was his replacement Seb Faure who hobbled off and was given treatment next to Steve Simonsen’s goal.

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Glasgow’s Barrie McKay (left) shies away from this kick by Victoria’s Wes Barrett (right) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Frenchman looked in a lot of pain as he was helped off the pitch after both teams had made their way back to the dressing rooms.

For the restart it was Barrie McKay who took Faure’s place with the pacey youngster slotting in on the left wing and Robbie Crawford moving to right back.

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Glasgow’s Kris Boyd (left) and Victoria’s Ryan Ashlee (right) search for the header (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

It’s a big season for McKay after his loan spell at Morton in 2013/14 and almost immediately after going on he gave fans a glimpse of his undoubted talent when he skipped past two defenders and floated the ball high to Gallagher who headed wide at the back post.

At the other end Alex Rowley came close to getting his side’s second goal when his rocket shot from 25 yards went a foot wide of Simonsen’s goal.

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Victoria’s Cameron Stokes looks to make a move on Rangers defender Ian Black (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

With half an hour remaining Rangers just had to stay focused and not make any silly errors but in the 67th minutes Zaliukas was guilty of doing just that.

His slack pass was intercepted by Highlanders’ scorer Hundal and when he played in their number nine Carlo Basso his shot trickled wide with Simonsen at full stretch.

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Rangers FC Darren McGregor (left), Kyle Hutton (centre) and Robbie Crawford (right) seemed to be playing amongst themselves in the second half Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The tempo of the match dropped in the latter stages but McCoist did manage to give Andy Murdoch, Kris Boyd and David Templeton second half run-outs and they worked hard after going on.

The Highlanders also continued to push for their second equaliser in the dying minutes and after cutting inside from the right Hundal created enough space to have a go but his shot was straight at Simonsen and the game finished 2-1 in Rangers’ favour.