A stunning goal was what separated the two teams as Rangers beat Kilmarnock on Saturday to move another step closer to the title. A game with little to shout about in terms of highlights, although the moment that decided the match was one worthy of winning any game. A tough match for new Killie boss Tommy Wright to take on as his first task in their quest to stay up, but given what we are aware of what he is capable of during his long spell at St Johnstone, it was never going to be a straight forward match for us. We have not put in a stellar display of late, part of which is down to players that have been missing which we will welcome back shortly, but the key thing is we are still very secure at the back, that has been crucial to our success this season. We will begin to play better in the coming weeks, I am very confident of that, but when we are so good in defence then all that we need is that one goal.
Here is how you rated our players from another victory over Kilmarnock.
Allan McGregor – 6.2 (7)
I’m losing count of the number of clean sheets that we have had this season, and I’m sure our defence are just way too scared to concede a goal due to the wrath that they will incur from the man behind them. The numbers do not lie. Only 1 goal conceded at home in the league in the entire season. That’s an exceptional record which Allan McGregor, and Jon McLaughlin, should be immensely proud of.
James Tavernier – 6.2 (6)
200 appearances for Rangers, and even though this current run of form has seen him be far less of a stand out, it should not take away from the fact that he will be so much happier with his Rangers career now than during the first lot of games that he was tallying up for us. It’s maybe at the point now where we expect him to score and when he doesn’t, we assume his game was a poor one. But that says so much for how good he truly was when he was on goal scoring form. He helps keep yet another clean sheet for us and did not make any glaring mistakes, so he is definitely not playing poorly, just not at that goliath level that is hard for anyone to maintain.
Connor Goldson – 6.5 (7)
I’d like to bring up the topic of potential Player of the Year. Because when you think about what has been so key for us in this season, it really is the defensive record that has played a crucial part in our success. The one player who has been ever present and vital toward that record is Connor Goldson, and it would seem appropriate to praise him in that manner for that award, although he will have stiff competition from a number of players for that accolade, all of whom started this game in my opinion.
Leon Balogun – 5.8 (6)
The mix and match of centre back partner does not affect Goldson obviously, but it maybe does have an effect on the two players battling it out for that role. Now, clearly they are both excellent given our record this season, and as much as many will prefer the defensive style of Helander (which I would class myself in that category) any suggestion that Balogun is an issue or a “bombscare” are off the mark and frankly stupid. He will use his athleticism to good effect in cutting out chances for the opposition, and on many occasions it works. He can look a bit more unorthodox at the back on occasion, but until that causes us to concede a goal, there is nothing for the fans to be too worried about when he is chosen to play over Fil. Preferences are perfectly fine, but no reason to require a change of underwear.
Borna Barisic – 5.7 (6)
Difficult to single out anything in particular from his game, even though his continued class is obvious. And Kilmarnock did not provide a huge attacking threat for us and thus his focus would have been on attacking, of which his output was not huge. He did put in the corner that ultimately led to the goal so that is something I guess!
Ryan Jack – 7.0 (7)
What a goal. I mean, seriously, what a goal. A game with limited quality opportunities and with half time approaching the nerves at the break with score level would have caused a lot of unhappy bears. But from the corner on the left hand side the ball eventually found it’s way to Ryan Jack, who took a touch on the volley, before hitting it so sweetly into the corner of the net. A goal that Steven Gerrard himself said he would be proud of, and a goal worthy of winning any game of football. He did not have the best of games out with that however, which makes this rating a fair one I think. Mainly it was just poor use of the ball and giving it away cheaply. But, what a goal.
Steven Davis – 7.8 (8) – Man of the Match
There are some players who are just perfect for how a team wants to play. Others are just born to play for certain clubs. When those two factors combine, what you get is a pivotal cog in a well oiled machine, that the fans can see the benefit of and will be willing him on to do well as he is one of our own. Steven Davis is the perfect combination of all of this, as well as a historic midfielder for Northern Ireland, and a truly outstanding football player. This match was totally run by Davis in the middle of the park, and the team were carried over the line by his smart passing and excellent decision making. A wonderful midfielder who we are so lucky to have.
Joe Aribo – 5.8 (6)
The inconsistency of Joe Aribo is made more frustrating by the fact we know he can be excellent when he is on it. But for a few games now he has been nowhere close to that. The chance he had in the box which seemed harder to not score sums up the issue surrounding him and whether it might be a confidence issue. We are talking about the same guy who only a year ago scored that sensational solo effort against Braga, he should feel more than capable of slotting that ball in. With other players coming back from injury, I would expect that he will be used as a good option from the bench in the coming games. I’d hope so at least.
Ianis Hagi – 5.8 (6)
There is more credit in the bank for Ianis to not have a top notch game here as others won’t have, but it does not take away from the fact that yes he has not had the same impact in games as what he has recently. I again come back to this tought about what his prime position would be and whether a change of style of play from next season might help produce the best from him, as a central attacking midfielder he would be excellent, without fear of him not being able to do the job in a physical encounter.
Cedric Itten – 5.8 (6)
It’s not impossible that the way we currently set up results in our team not getting the best out of Itten at the moment. He is so good at holding up the ball and bringing others into play, as well as his finishing ability in the box, that it is beginning to feel like what he needs is to play in a more standard 442. You could see a combination of him, the target man who can hold the ball up and bring others into play whilst causing a nuisance in the box, and a Kemar Roofe who will thrive when working off a big guy up top alongside him, working wonderfully as a partnership. Perhaps that is what we need to look toward with him if we feel that his inclusion in the attack is what our future holds.
Ryan Kent – 6.0 (6)
I firmly believe Ryan Kent will benefit from more long term competition and a game or two on the bench, more from a psychological point of view. Once again, effort did not translate to output, and a more confident Kent will take on that opportunity he had without playing it to Aribo, and he would probably have scored it. So I would say that young Wright is showing that for certain games, he could take on that role, and Kent will respond well to that I believe.
Scott Wright – 5.5 (6)
Despite only playing a total of just under 30 minutes so far, I think we can see already that Scott Wright can do a really good job for the team. Skillful on the ball, keen to get the ball into the area and create things, and (crucially) not afraid to be physical about it. I like that a lot about him, and I think he should play some games from the start in the next week or so, just to see if he can translate that to starting appearances. And, players wanting to prove they should be in the side from the start will perform even better, which of course will benefit us.
Scott Arfield – 4.7 (5)
Absolutely brilliant to see him back in the team after a spell out injured. His strength and energy in the middle of the park will be so important for the upcoming matches we have. A well timed return for Arf.