The season is almost over. This season of seasons. In a time where the world has struggled, we as Rangers fans have had our team to look at and be proud of. This league season will go down as one of the best we have had, and after a very nice 3-0 win away at Livingston, we sit with 99 points on the board, with +75 goal difference, and are one game away from an unbeaten league season. The winning mentality is still evident, this team want squeeze as much out of the rest of this season as they possibly can. Livingston never make a game easy, and playing on a less than desirable surface can make it harder to play good football, but this team is far too good to let things like that bother them, and this was one of the best performances we have had at Almondvale in a long time. The game started with some bright sparks and some decent opportunities, but we had to wait until just before half time to get the first goal. Some great build up play resulted in the correct award of a penalty, which was stuck home by our captain to give us the half time advantage.
The second half saw us continue to press for as many chances as possible, and a lovely lofted ball over the top led to some good combination play with two of our front men to double the advantage. Livingston then had a spell trying to reduce the deficit but were unsuccessful, despite a number good chances. There would be one more goal in this game, and it would be for the champions. A great pass from the left and cut back led to a well deserved finish for our playmaker, and 3 would be the magic number. 3 goals. 3 points. And 1 more game to play before our skipper lifts the Scottish Premiership trophy. Saturday is a day to thoroughly enjoy ourselves. Drink in every single moment of it, tell future generations about every aspect of how wonderful the day was. And the excitement just keeps getting greater and greater.
Here is how you rated the players from our final away game of the season.
Jon McLaughlin – 7.0 (7)
You would imagine that Allan McGregor would start the match on Saturday, meaning this will probably Jon McLaughlin’s final game for us this season. He has made a fantastic contribution as back up keeper, keeping a good number of the 25 clean sheets we have amassed this campaign. Makes the right decisions to come out to collect or be ready to face a shot, he makes the job of goalkeeping look far easier than what it might be. His importance to how assured we have been about this squad this season should not be underestimated.
James Tavernier – 8.3 (8) – Joint Man of the Match
19 goals. He has scored 19 goals and almost has as many assists this season. That, quite simply, has to go down as one of the most outstanding full back performances for any Rangers player in that position. And he has even had a spell out injured within that as well. His 19th goal came from the penalty spot, and an important spot kick to convert given recent hiccups in something he is usually so consistent with. But, he slots it past the palms of the Livi keeper. He also plays a great lofted ball to lead to our second goal as well, a cross field ball that was similar to his assist for Jermain Defoe’s goal against Livingston at Ibrox earlier in the season. He really deserves one of the awards he is up for, but he would no doubt tell you that lifting the Premiership trophy on Saturday will be reward enough.
Connor Goldson – 7.3 (7)
In the league, we have only conceded 13 goals. Our defenders have scored 18. That is a simply incredible statistic, no matter how you look at it. And Connor Goldson has been vital to both aspects of that. He has chipped in with some goals over the season, we all remember Parkhead in particular for that. But it has been at the back where he has shone. He has taken total control and ownership of that penalty area, clearing crosses and long throws because he takes it upon himself to do that. He really has been remarkable this campaign.
Jack Simpson – 6.0 (6)
Livingston targeted our left hand side during their spell in the second half were they were trying to get back into the game. Part of that would have been because of our make shift left back, but I also think they would have seen some slightly shaky parts to Simpson’s game that they would want to expose. To be fair, he stood up to those challenges and got himself a clean sheet in a Rangers jersey, but he still gives off a vibe of us missing the likes of Helander at the back. Still, plenty of time to improve.
Joe Aribo – 7.3 (7)
We know that Aribo is capable of playing at left back, but his main asset in that role is his attacking intent. Defensively, though a strong player, he can be caught out and that did cause an issue for us in the second half at one point, but that was quickly eradicated by the excellent run and pass he makes in the build up to our third goal, a goal that only comes about from the work he puts in, along with some good work thereafter. He clearly has a better impact further up the park, but when times are desperate, you know you can call on Joe to do what needs done for the team, and this is an example of that.
Glen Kamara – 7.3 (7)
A level of control in the centre that you often see from Kamara when he is feeling like himself, and I think he just needed a bit of recovery time as this was his best game for us for a bit. So much of that work is under the radar, but a lot of what he does helps us with that record breaking clean sheet tally that we have accumulated.
Steven Davis – 8.0 (8)
Future generations of Rangers players, Rangers midfielders, will look at Steven Davis as the standard that one should set for themselves. In so many aspects. The fitness levels that only he can control, to be able to keep sprinting for the ball in the late stages of a game like this. The talent that he has worked on over a number of years to get to where he is today. The longevity to win league titles for Rangers over a great many years. As Rangers fans, we like to use the word legend for those players who epitomise what was great about our club during various spells of dominance. It is fair to call Steven Davis a legend.
Ianis Hagi – 8.3 (8) – Joint Man of the Match
A lot of fans would look at the line up and reckon that Hagi was going to be given a more central role. The reality was he was part of an attacking quartet that slotted into all areas over the course of the match. But, this played nicely into Hagi’s hands, as this freedom allowed him to look far more dangerous as a forward and this was a really good game from him. He gets fouled so often in the league because he is always a few steps ahead of the opposition with his thinking. And I love how he just gets up and gets on with it. He isn’t precious about being fouled, he just gets up and gets on with it. He runs on to the well played ball and knows he is going to take the hit that leads to the penalty, but it’s worth it. And he gets his reward in the second half with his goal, well set up and he smashes it in. He’s a very good finisher in the area as well. Games like this show the doubters that he absolutely has a role to play.
Kemar Roofe – 6.3 (7)
We are getting a late flourish from Roofe in terms of looking like a true step up from your standard SPFL player. Even though it was just one moment, it was a great piece of play that sets up our opener. He gets the pass and flicks it on perfectly into the path of Hagi who wins the penalty. Thinking on his feet like that, that’s what makes him a really good player, and I really liked how he found himself in a lot of different positions, and he seemed to enjoy that aspect of the game too. Plenty to consider going into the next campaign.
Alfredo Morelos – 7.0 (7)
He wants to score goals wherever he possibly can, but he also wants Rangers to get as many goals as possible too. If you want an example of the maturity that Buff has developed, then look at this second goal. Kent plays the ball to him in the box, I’m sure expecting that Morelos will take the shot on. But he sees the opportunity is there for Ryan to stick it in, and plays the ball back for the tap in. A very well worked a move, a great assist, and I cannot wait to see him lift the title and the smile that comes with that.
Ryan Kent – 7.3 (8)
Ryan Kent looks determined to do everything he can to finish this season in style. A thunderous shot early on signalled his intent, and he looked to get involved wherever possible, in many different areas of the park (another player who seems to really like that freedom) and he got in on the scoring action with the great piece of play between him and Morelos. Kent does great work collecting the ball from Tav as well, and it’s a simple tap in to double the advantage. It may be a game that means little in context of the season, but try telling players like Kent that.
Jermain Defoe – 5.3 (6)
Shout out to the dummy he plays to let Hagi take the shot for our third goal. Not quite the same level as that Old Firm moment two years ago for Arfield’s goal at Ibrox, but all the same it was a smart contribution so late on in the game.
Cedric Itten – 5.3 (6)
We really should make the point that Itten does great work in terms of moving onto the ball from Aribo and playing that ball into the box. It was an example of how he has perhaps done better work in terms of build up to goals than goals themselves this season. He will want to play more next season, no question, so it will be interesting to see what work he does over the summer to get ready for the next campaign.
Scott Wright – 4.7 (5)
I must admit I hadn’t realised Scott Wright was on with this many late substitutes! I’m sure Aberdeen fans will now understand his decision to move to us in January…
Leon King – 5
A league debut for young Leon and a point to be made about why he finds himself in the squad when other youngsters are not even without a full bench. King has earned his place in the squad because of the work he has done at Auchenhowie. He is not there as a token youth player. He is there because the manager recognises his work ethic alongside his potential.
Greg Stewart – 4.3 (5)
Let’s hope he gets the chance to get on the park on Saturday, a player who never causes trouble, knows his role, but is always ready to step up when asked to. He has every right to enjoy lifting that trophy, as do all the squad.