STAND-IN captain Andy Halliday felt Rangers were back to their “free-flowing best” as they demolished Queen of the South 24 hours after Joey Barton’s suspension.
Halliday led Rangers out for the first time one week after his training-ground row with Barton led to the English midfielder being banished from the club for at least four weeks.
The lifelong Light Blues supporter realised a dream in captaining the team but he felt there was a return to normality at the same time as Rangers beat the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders 5-0 to reach the Betfred Cup semi-finals.
Halliday, who was skipper in the absence of the rested Lee Wallace, told Rangers TV: “It was certainly one of the proudest moments of my career to captain this great football club.
“There’s been many, many great football players who have captained this legendary club and to be added to that list, albeit for one game, is a phenomenal achievement for myself.
“Most importantly, it was a 5-0 victory. It’s good to get back in amongst the goals. I thought we were back to our free-flowing best. Apart from a 15-minute spell at the start of the second half, I thought it was a lot like the Rangers we are used to.”
The midfielder – who netted in the triumph – admitted it was a “phenomenal” feeling to lead his team-mates down the tunnel.
“It’s fair to say it’s something I dreamed of for a long time,” he added. “I managed to sample that for 20 minutes against Linfield but, being a competitive game and being at Ibrox in front of our our fans, it was probably the proudest moment of my Rangers career.”
The victory gave Rangers some respite from a troubled spell which has been dominated by Barton’s relationship with his team-mates and manager Mark Warburton, but also an indifferent start to their Premiership campaign.
They followed a 5-1 thrashing by Celtic with a goalless home draw against Ross County and Halliday admitted they needed to show resilience to respond.
“The way this club is, there is going to be pressure if you don’t pick up results,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast and to be honest you wouldn’t have it any other way because two points dropped at home in the league is never good enough.
“We have got a group of winners in there. We take the burden on ourselves and we went out there and got a victory.”
Halliday added to Jason Holt’s first-half opener before Martyn Waghorn fired a 20-minute hat-trick. It was the midfielder’s 12th goal for the club, seven of which have come in cup competitions.
“My cup record is not actually too bad since I have been at Rangers,” the former Livingston, Middlesbrough and Bradford player said.
“I have not managed to score too many league goals, so that’s something I’m trying to look at. But I think I’m more prolific in the holding midfield role.
“But it was very pleasing to get a goal and it’s always pleasing to score in front of the Copland Road Stand as well. It was a good team goal as well.”
Meanwhile, Barton did not appear as scheduled on Radio 5 Live’s Afternoon Edition programme. The 34-year-old had been due to discuss his autobiography, No Nonsense, which is released on Thursday, but was replaced by chef Jamie Oliver.
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