Off the back of a solid win in West Lothian, we had midweek action a bit further east as our side had a midweek evening tie in the capital against Hibs. Not long off the back of our League Cup exit to Jack Ross’ side, this was an opportunity for our players to gain some revenge, and the prospects of this felt very strong given our new backroom staff’s solid start to life at Ibrox, with new assistant manager Dave Vos involved in his first match for the team. Only one change to the team that got the win in Livingston, in an attempt to have extra solidity in midfield, but plenty of players who started at Hampden would line up at Easter Road. The game itself was a poor one in regard to quality. A limited number of chances throughout the game, with the travelling support in good voice and spirit, but the effort from the stands was not exactly replicated on the park. In the first half there was only a handful of highlights, the majority from our attack, whether it be a corner we could not convert or some runs into the area that we failed to capitalise on. The biggest chance was right at the end of the first 45 when a cross from the right look set to be headed in, only for the ball to go wide. The half time mood, whether you were in the stadium or watching at home, was one of annoyance.
People can think back to when our previous manager was here and think about this game, and many feel as though this game would not be one we would win given our lack of changing things in game. What fans are now seeing and really appreciating is that Giovanni van Bronckhorst is a manager who will absolutely change things when required, and a lot of credit should go to him for the way we grind out a result here. The pattern of poor play, from both teams, continued into the second half. Easy passes resulting in lost possession, runs from wide slowing down the further up the field players would get, very little in the way of players getting into the box looking to get on the end of things. But just after the hour mark, two subs that made perfect sense to any Rangers fan watching allowed a shift in approach, and suddenly Hibs found themselves having to defend a lot more. The pressure we put on them, even with the same lack of overall quality, eventually paid off as we would win a penalty with five minutes to go. Our player having cut inside only to have his foot kicked by Ryan Porteous, who did not look happy afterward, and the referee correctly pointed to the spot. Up stepped our substitute striker to slot in and the away end was electric. As soon as we scored we made a final substitution, a defensive one to see the game out, and despite Hibernian piling on the pressure to find an equaliser, they failed to do so, and once again the three points would travel back westbound. We know fine well that we can play better than what we did, but results like this are ones that you look back on if you’re campaign is successful. And that old saying of winning when playing ugly keeps coming back to me as well.
Here is how you rated our players from a poor game but welcoming win.
Allan McGregor – 6.4 (7)
A lot of talk about how we did not play well in this game, and the same can be said for our opposition, who hardly tested our goalkeeper at all. All the same, whenever Hibs did look to have a shot at goal, McGregor had no issues in dealing with it. I certainly believe that him starting consistently for us right now is helping both him and the team as a whole, and I have no reason to believe this will not continue for the foreseeable.
James Tavernier – 6.2 (6)
Previously, his attacking exploits stood out, as they so often do, but what is encouraging is that when he fails to offer a lot offensively, he can at least do the necessaries at the back, and I felt that the skipper did a good job dealing with their left hand side. If only he was able to threaten more in terms of crosses in, then we would be far more complimentary of him than what we are.
Connor Goldson – 6.1 (6)
Like the captain, the defensive qualities of his game here were much improved from more recent displays, certainly the last time he played Hibs, and you could almost say that he was solid here. But he was so often so guilty of giving the ball away so cheaply, to the point that it felt that every single time he passed the ball he would end up finding a green shirt. In respect of his use of the ball, he was incredibly frustrating.
Calvin Bassey – 6.6 (7)
He continues to impress in the centre of defence, with his primary asset as a centre back being the speed that compliments his strength. Up against forwards who can trouble many defences with their pace, Calvin was able to close down a lot sooner, preventing players like Boyle to accelerate on the ball. He has really earned the right to have his name in one of the best chants our crowd has come up with in a long time.
Borna Barisic – 6.3 (6)
In previous games this season, I have commented on the performance levels of one full back not being replicated on the other side. And the vast majority of the time I would be looking for Borna to do on the left what Tavernier had done on the right. This time however I think that the two displays were very similar, in that they both stood up well defensively without offering an awful lot going forward. It just wasn’t that type of game in the end, although you feel that Barisic is at least up for the fight more now at least.
Steven Davis – 5.2 (5)
His inclusion was the only change from the win at Almondvale, and the thought process behind this makes a lot of sense as having that extra deeper player allows you more of a chance to win the midfield battle. The problem is, he failed to secure this, nor did he manage to help set any sort of tempo. Him coming off when we did was key to how we would turn the game around, and that is purely down to the right tactic being implemented at the right time.
Glen Kamara – 6.2 (6)
This maybe was not the same level of midfield dominance as Sunday, but you can forgive Kamara for this given the type of match it turned out to be. It would be hard to justify not having him in the starting line up right now, which says a lot for how he seems to be enjoying a new lease of life under Gio, and he could be the type of player whose performances will go under the radar a lot due to the job he has to do, but that job is still a very important one that he has been doing very well lately.
Ianis Hagi – 5.7 (6)
There is an element of rotation in the attacking midfield area, but the vast majority of the time we will see Hagi in the wider area of the field. In games like this, indeed in most games that we play, that needs speed to threaten the so often packed defensive lines of our opponents. Ianis so often has to cut the ball back when down the right hand side, and pass inside because he has not got the pure pace to get further forward without the defence having tracked back, and a cross at that point is not the best option. Domestically, it’s been a while since he has made a goal contribution.
Joe Aribo – 6.7 (7) – Man of the Match
There are a few players who would naturally play in the role that Joe often ends up in on the park, but none of them have any chance of ousting Aribo from this position due to how well he has been doing here. He has no issue getting passed a few players around him as his ability on the ball is great, and if need be he will track back to win back possession and set things going again. For what van Bronckhorst wants his team to do, Aribo is such an important cog in that machine, and he is looking a lot more consistent now than before.
Ryan Kent – 6.2 (6)
We know he can do better than what he has done here, but even so he was one of our biggest threats in the game. A number of opportunities in the second half where his speed to get passed the defensive line from wide would create a real opening, but his many shots failed to find the net despite some efforts looking very promising. He plays a key role by winning the penalty, which again comes from the same move, and it goes to show that even when not playing particularly well, that sort of player makes such a difference in a game like this.
Alfredo Morelos – 5.3 (5)
The early signs of what Morelos might look to do as a striker in this system seem to have faded somewhat, as the last two games have been way below the mark in comparison to the Europa League. It’s not new to us the idea that he looks to make an impact on the big European nights, but this is the kind of game you would think he could flourish in. His header right before half time just summed it up though. He has space and time to hit that right and find the net, yet fluffs his lines and him coming off was absolutely the right thing to do.
Kemar Roofe – 6.5 (7)
The first time we have seen Roofe with the new gaffer, and it was always likely that he would be a striker rather than in the trio just behind. His key moment was stepping up to take the penalty which, given the pressure, was coolly hit home, and he is certainly the go to spot kick taker in the team right now.
Scott Arfield – 6.6 (7)
Scott continues to show why he is likely to be a main beneficiary of Gio as his introduction changed so much for the better for us. Having that additional attacking thrust from midfield forced Hibs to change what they were trying to do, and suddenly we were running forward with the ball in the centre rather than the wide areas, and it’s exactly what Arfield can do so well. He looks to be a very important member of this team once again.
John Lundstram – 4.6 (5)
So many were wishing for a more attacking option to come on earlier, but the decision making from the bench to bring on Lundstram just after we go ahead made that the perfect call, as the extra solidity helped us see home the crucial win.