Rob Roy’s perfect start to the season continued with a battling win in an often bad-tempered Super League Premier Division encounter at Kilwinning.
Beleaguered referee Calum Scott brandish seven yellow cards and a late straight dismissal to home defender Thomas Maitland as the Kirkintilloch side racked up their ninth straight win.
Rabs passed up a great chance to take a fourth minute lead when they were awarded a penalty after Willie Sawyers was tripped in the box but Lee Gallacher’s poorly struck spot kick was easily saved by keeper Chris Strain.
Rangers responded with Bryan Boylan firing the ball over the Rabs bar from the edge of the penalty box.
The Buffs took a 26th minute lead under controversial circumstances when a Ben Lewis free-kick hit the Rabs defensive wall; he then shot the rebound well past the post only for the referee to award a corner kick.
And from the disputed award Ricky Hanvey’s header squeezed into the top corner of the net after Rabs keeper Michael McKinven had flapped at the ball.
Kilwinning were the more determined side and Maitland came close to adding to their total but his effort drifted wide.
However in the 34th minute Rabs equalised when Danny MacKenzie was fouled out on the left wing and Gavin Mackie sent over a perfectly flighted free-kick for Craig Buchanan to rise at the back post to send his header crashing into the net.
On the stroke of half-time Rabs should have gone ahead when Gallacher was through on goal but the diving Strain managed to get a hand to the ball to divert it to safety.
The first chance of the second half fell to Rangers but McKinven did well to push aside a Boylan drive.
Rabs began to take control and in a good passage of attacking play Gallacher’s shot lacked punch.
Sawyers headed a Jordan McGuire cross narrowly wide before Mackie’s 20 yard free kick was cleared by Isaac Kerr, then Maitland was forced to head a long Kevin Green clearance behind for a Rabs corner.
With the home defence rocking, Rabs took a deserved 73rd minute lead when clever wing play between substitutes Reece Pearson and Kevin Watt freed Mackie on the left to cross into the Buffs penalty box for the advancing Sawyers to send a neat well timed header over Strain into the net.
The Ayrshire side had a couple of late efforts from distance, both sent into orbit but they never looked like breaking down a well organised Rabs defence.
To compound to their misery the Abbey Park side were reduced to 10 men in the closing minutes when Maitland was shown a straight red card for a reckless lunge on Pearson.