A ground which has caused problems for our team in the past, as well as others, therefore our trip to Livingston was not to be taken lightly by the fans, who looked forward to seeing Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s first domestic game in charge of Rangers. Despite the worry that the change of weather may have put this match on hold, the 12 noon kick off arrived and, one of the very welcome changes under this new regime, we actually started an early kick off game well. That same level of intensity from Thursday was on display, which is clearly going to be a feature of what we do going forward, which resulted in a lofted ball over the top of the Livingston defence being sent in from our one change to the starting line up. What was really pleasant to see was that the intensity of our play did not stop there, we kept on going and scored a lovely second when the ball was knocked back to our ‘number 10’ who hit an excellent ball over the keeper and into the net. Early in an early kick off and already 2 up, a magnificent sight to be seeing for any Rangers fan. What was noticeable in both halves of the game on Thursday was a drop off as the game went on, and the same happened here only this time it was something David Martindale’s side could capitalise on. A long ball over the top was not dealt with properly, and the initial shot was parried into the path of the Livi forward who was able to head the ball into an empty net. Long balls over the top was a tactic often used as it was something we struggled with. But it was us who would go into the break ahead.
The start of the second half was delayed due to a number of snowballs peppering the Livingston penalty area, as well as yours truly, a very unfortunate seat for me on my first visit to Almondvale (I still won’t call it anything else). But when the second half did begin, we struggled to get our rhythm going, and part of me wonders if the delayed restart didn’t exactly help the players get going again. However, we did enough defensively and grew more and more into our attacking threat, before we got that vital third goal to end any nerves of a result, courtesy of a corner headed in by one of our substitutes courtesy of an incredible leap. From there, the game played out rather straight forward. We had a couple of chances to put extra gloss on the scoreline, whilst handling any threats from the home side’s attacks. A first domestic game for van Bronckhorst, who continues to grow and improve his backroom staff, and another win for his team.
Here is how you rated our players from a good win at Livingston.
Allan McGregor – 7.5 (7) – Joint Man of the Match
We were witness to yet another top class save from McGregor here, although the circumstances around it were more frustrating than in the match against Sparta. It was off the back of a concession which I don’t believe he can do much about. The Livingston player is in on goal and his shot is well saved by McGregor, but the ball found it’s way to the Livi number 9 who was able to head the ball into the net with McGregor unable to get back up in time. Not long after, Livingston had a great chance from a set piece but McGregor reacted amazingly well to tip the ball over the bar. That is two games in a row where he has made an important impact, this is far more like the McGregor we know, even though we have now conceded more goals this season than the entirety of last, less than halfway through the campaign.
James Tavernier – 6.7 (7)
It’s funny to think about the skippers performance, as despite not playing quite to the level that we know he can, he still comes up with two assists here and is certainly our biggest goal threat when you consider both goals and assists. His ball over the top for the first is more down to the man who scores it, as is the corner for our third, but it simply goes to show just how it is important to have him in the team, whether he is on top form or simply finding his way back to it.
Connor Goldson – 5.5 (6)
The “blame” for the goal that Livingston scored will fall at the head of Goldson due to his lack of using it at the crucial moment. He doesn’t judge the flight of the ball well enough and the smaller Livingston forward has time to set himself up for the shot. He did also have a few shaky moment, much more so than the previous game, so once again the questions over what we do in the January market will fall a lot around defensive reinforcements.
Calvin Bassey – 6.7 (7)
Again, I think Bassey puts in a very commendable performance at centre back. Much of what we had discussed before about his defensive display, a good combination of grit and calmness. There is an argument that he is the most improved player of the season, and has turned in some great displays in both positions in recent memory. His place in the team must be kept.
Borna Barisic – 5.8 (6)
This was another game where he doesn’t do an awful lot, whether you put that down to the pitch we played on or just that he is not in a good moment, but it is a truth that he would not be a big loss if he was taken out of the starting line up. It is up to him to put in displays that make him undroppable, even if the heart is still clearly there.
Glen Kamara – 6.2 (7)
Another really solid display in the deep centre from Kamara, whose ability to win the ball back was really important to help win the midfield battle. As the only player who was going to do this, he had to be in top form, and he was. Glen seems to have gained a new lease on life under Gio as that is two games on the bounce where he has looked far better, and we were not seeing that consistency from him up to now.
Scott Arfield – 7.5 (8) – Joint Man of the Match
I was surprised to see the team sheet and it looking as though Arfield was going to be in along side Kamara, but the more you think about it, the more van Bronckhorst is doing exactly what we want our manager to do in games like this. Yes Arfield is able to sit deeper when needed, but his primary aim is to get forward, to be an extra attacking threat, and in a game where we should be doing the vast majority of the attacking, that’s where he comes in so handy. And early on, that pays off, as a ball over the top is superbly lobbed over the top, the kind of quick thinking finish that he is really good at. His inclusion shows us exactly why we are going to benefit from a more experienced gaffer who knows the benefits of making these kind of decisions.
Ianis Hagi – 5.8 (6)
It seems as though Ianis Hagi on the right is how it’s going to be for the time being. I did wonder whether he would end up battling with Aribo for the number 10 spot, but you can see the plus points of having the two of them there together. I thought his thinking was correct when looking to get forward and was unlucky that moves were not being set the way he had imagined. And despite not having any major output, the star power he brings does make a difference to us.
Joe Aribo – 7.0 (8)
This was a really good performance in the advanced area, and I think we can now safely say that the tactics here are benefitting Joe massively. His goal is a beautiful hit, laid off on the edge of the area and a first time lob which was excellent, with the right amount of power and curl, and the result looked as good as secure by that point. Overall he was again doing a lot of really smart pieces of attacking play, as well as looking to win the ball back on many occasions, that diversity is still something that can be utilised but he will gain far more from that when playing higher up I feel. This is an exciting time for Aribo.
Ryan Kent – 6.3 (7)
I think this was another example of star power being there but without being able to have any end product, but we will not be critical with him for that due to the fact that the team does look so much better with him in, and he is absolutely a key figure in this side. Watching him up close in the second half you can see the panic on the defenders when he is on the ball as he can turn them inside out, and on some occasions he did. A wider and better surface suits him better, but this was by no means poor from him.
Alfredo Morelos – 5.5 (6)
Old habits of dropping a bit deeper were creeping back in which was interesting to see considering the success he was clearly having by staying up higher. My hope is that this is going to be rare from him, but let’s see what the long term thinking is in that respect. He lays the ball off for Aribo’s goal, but all the credit does go to Joe on that one, otherwise he did seem a bit frustrated for much of the game.
Nathan Patterson – 5.8 (6)
Another appearance off the bench and once again he is playing in the advanced right area. The importance of him playing is clearly not lost on the coaching staff, and it is absolutely a go to option for them. I, along with the Rangers support, are all for it.
Fashion Sakala – 6.7 (7)
We often talk about Sakala’s speed, but his ability in the air is something he has shown a couple of times before and he showed it big time here, getting on the end of a corner from the right with a magnificent jump to beat the Livi keeper and score our third goal. A great impact off the bench for someone who will have made a strong statement to Gio that he is due a start.
Jermain Defoe – 4.3 (5)
A very rare and surprising appearance for our player coach, who nearly got a goal not long after coming off the bench. I wonder if we will see more of him from the bench as he is someone who will absolutely look to stay up and find the net.