Rangers went into the first international break of the season with another win and another clean sheet, this time at Hamilton Accies, in what was a deserved win that could and should have been a lot more. On a surface that can prove tricky for some, we flew out of the traps with two early goals, some excellent intent and it all looked set for a much higher scoreline. We overloaded the Hamilton box with a plethora of attacking players, all keen to get in on the act. The movement from the offensive line caused a headache for the Accies, and there was better work done in the middle of the park, with a partnership that we know really works. Speaking of partnerships, the defence have once again gone a full game without conceding a goal, against by far the most attacking opposition we have faced in the league so far this season. Our keeper made a few important saves, but in the main we controlled matters at the back through out and it makes games like that much easier to watch from a fans point of view.
That especially applies to the second half which, unfortunately from our point of view, saw us be much more wasteful with chances. Let’s look at the positive aspect, we are creating the chances, some excellent crosses and decent intent through the middle as well. A lack of sharpness in front of goal is all that was missing in reality, however it was quite noticeable given the quality of potential assists we had. We were on the verge of a much higher scoreline, but this is a more than welcome win which keeps us moving along nicely, and everyone in the league will definitely be on notice when it comes to our results. It is going to take a lot for teams to score against, or to not concede against us. That’s a great combination.
So, with all of that said, let’s see how you rated our players performance at New Douglas Park (or whatever name the stadium currently is).
Jon McLaughlin – 7.3 (7)
A position that many were keeping an eye on going into this match was goalkeeper. Would Allan McGregor come back in as number 1 or would Jon McLaughlin retain his place following a solid start to the season. The latter would turn out to be the case, and it was a really good goalkeeping performance from him in a game that saw him involved a lot more. His highlight was an excellent save on the goal line from a header which was Hamilton’s best chance. On top of this, he looked very comfortable on the ball, is talking to his defence well, and gives a level of assurance that is so welcoming for someone who is, on the surface, a back up keeper. I say “on the surface” because many of us might be thinking whether that tag of backup keeper is fair on him now. I think it’s worthy of conversation to be fair, off the back of this game we have seen him do the things that Allan McGregor does so well, but on top of that he does other things that McGregor is not so good at, such as his use of the ball on his feet and how he releases the ball. As far as I’m concerned, until something happens that says “we need Greggs back in nets” I’d stick with McLaughlin.
James Tavernier – 7.4 (7)
His first goal of the season, long overdue given some of the chances he has had in previous games, but the goal itself is indicative of the work he has done previously to break that duck. Especially in the first half, Tav was so high up so often and was keen to contribute. And given our opposition do not have the level of quality that would force Tav to track back, all due respect of course, this was understandable. The great work that caused this goal wasn’t down to Tav, but the fact he was in the right place to get the rebound and convert was well deserved, because you still have to put in the effort to get up there and the instinct to be ready for that rebound. So no, it’s not a goal from a set piece, nor a volley, or a 30 yard screamer. But, what that goal represents is a celebration of how we want to overload our opposition box, and how calling James Tavernier an overlapping fullback is an understatement.
Connor Goldson – 7.1 (7)
I won’t waste your time here. Same defensive positives. Same distribution positives. The same standard that we have witnessed from him so far this season. No need to add anything more at this stage, other than a header that was unlucky not to find the net.
Filip Helander – 7.1 (7)
You can pretty much say the same thing for Helander as well. It’s hard to go into too much depth on central defenders when you are as dominant as that, but in fairness they had more to do with the corners that Hamilton had but, like with McLaughlin, there is an assurance with the back line from a defensive stand point which is always welcoming.
Borna Barisic – 7.3 (7)
No goal or assist for the Croat, I’m not sure this is a world I want to live in! In all fairness though there were some excellent crosses which could well have led to goals had the injured Swiss Target Man Itten been on the end of. Not sure we can get over how good these can be, especially when it’s a first time cross as well. He is also involved in the build up to the first goal, a clever ball back to Davis which leads to his ball into the area. I don’t recall him being overly troubled defensively, despite having more to do, so a game that Borna can be happy with before he heads off to represent his country.
Ryan Jack – 7.4 (7)
Also receiving a call up for his country is Ryan Jack, who once again looks far more comfortable when he can take full ownership of that role that he wants to play in the midfield. It almost feels a strange paradox but when it’s just him who is seen as the out and out holding midfielder, he actually seems to be braver in getting forward. Was desperately unlucky not to have his deflected effort find the net, it bouncing off the post instead, but so often he was in the box, adding to this overload that I have talked about before. Another reference point to the statement that Jack plays better when Steven Davis is beside him. Would this be the case for a new signing that performs a similar role to Davis?
Steven Davis – 7.2 (7)
Any fears that Davis would rarely feature, if at all, have now been quashed I think, because you can see just how much the team is improved in matches of this level when you have someone who has both the experience and the playing style of Steven Davis. Now, it is fair to call him a holding midfielder, but this is much more of a Pirlo than a Makelele in terms of the tasks required. It’s much more acceptable for him to collect the ball from the defence and bring it forward, because I think we all feel that he has far more of a passing brain to play the right ball (when on form) and it just allows a balance to the team which works so well. His age is a factor however, and we need to keep that in mind when it comes to recruitment. I cannot see us using him more than once a week, especially when playing 90 minutes. Therefore, a player in a similar mould to Davis is, for me, the priority signing. I should also say that his ball in which led to the first goal was an excellent delivery, it causes their defence no end of issues.
Brandon Barker – 5.6 (6)
Retained his place after a much better than expected game against Kilmarnock. I was dubious over whether he should have started given the difference in pitch, but with Cedric Itten injured it made sense to keep him in. It was not as good a performance from him in terms of output sadly. A few really good chances that he should have done better with, and I think you could physically see his confidence decreasing as the game went on. A player with higher self belief will bust a gut to run into the box when Kent is racing forward in the second half, he didn’t want to make himself the easy option for Kent in that situation. I think the speed of Barker is still something that is more than worth utilising, and he is getting in good positions more often now, which is something to be commended as he is having to change his natural winger role to more of an attacking midfielder (there are adjustments needed for that) so I won’t throw him under the bus yet.
Ianis Hagi – 6.7 (7)
The relief for Hagi when he slotted the ball home from a couple of yards was palpable. Brought back in after a supposed knock, I saw a much hungrier looking Ianis which was so welcoming. Not a goal that will go in his highlight reel of course, but this was a goal that you could see he really wanted. And from there, the link up play with Kent was really good, the decision making was better. I guess it was like he had a valve released and could begin to enjoy his football more, we maybe get the very best of the Romanian star when he is more at ease. When the attacking players are at full throttle, that pressure will be spread out more you would like to think, which in turn will help Ianis if that theory holds up.
Ryan Kent – 8.7 (8) – Man of the Match
There wasn’t a goal for him but this was still a man of the match display from Kent. The thing that impressed me most was the desire. He didn’t give up, he kept trying for the full 90 minutes and so often our attacking breaks came as a result of the movement that Kent provided. We are beginning to see, I think, the full package of what Ryan Kent can offer, and what’s more encouraging is that after the game he was frustrated that he didn’t do more. That, right there, gives you an idea of where his head is at. He wants to be better, he wants to perform better for us. I’ll take that all day every day.
Kemar Roofe – 6.5 (6)
Deployed as the striker here and there are two aspects of the game you can look at, almost like the good news and the bad news. Let’s deal with the bad news first. His finishing was not good. He had a great chance from a header which he should have buried but he got his jump all wrong, was under the ball and it looped over the bar. That was the stand out chance for him but there were other chances too which he was not able to convert. I put this down to still not having the level of match sharpness he will be wanting, which is absolutely understanbale but it is good that he played a full 90 in the match to get that up to speed. We know from his history that he is capable of scoring all sorts of goals, that will come. The good news, his movement to spread the opposition defence is what gives guys like Kent the chance to really flourish. The role of the striker can be more than just scoring goals, and when Roofe is used as the lead striker I suspect this will be the case a lot more. And that is the beauty of Kemar Roofe.
Scott Arfield – 4.8 (5)
He has scored more goals against Hamilton than any other opponent. Given how long he spent down south, that’s a fun wee stat! On far too late to have an influence on things, as per the norm when it comes to Arfield sadly. But there is maybe another question over Gerrard’s use of subs? For me I’m less worried about that this time, because we are on the cusp of an international break which gives players more time to recover and we were still creating chances. Also, I fully agreed with the decision to not play Morelos from the bench, there is no point risking him in that situation.
Greg Stewart – 3.9 (5)
Did he touch the ball? I’d be surprised if he did. Thankless task for any player to come on that late.