Whenever anyone says ‘Livingston’ from now on I will always remember wind, rain, postponement, 24-hour turnaround and a LOT of driving! What I will not remember so fondly will be the game in question, as Rangers again found a way to labour to a 1-0 win at Ibrox on Sunday, with a reduced and less than amused crowd witness to the team revert to the level of our opposition and, in the end, sneak over the line with a well worked move and our own post to thank. Had this been a one off, when you take into account the conditions and the circumstances, we would have forgiven this and thought nothing of it. But our lack of “spark” has been a thing for the whole of 2020 and it will still linger in the minds of our fans going into a tough European tie in midweek. So which of the players from the weekend impressed the Heart and Hand universe?
Allan McGregor – 7.8
There are things in life that always are, always was and always will be. One of those things is a Rangers goalkeeper will spend the vast majority of most of his games spectating a game without having much to do. But, when he is called upon, he must stand up to the test and time and time again Allan McGregor does that. A vital moment in the second half where he pulls off a reaction save which, had it resulted in a goal, would have sent Ibrox into a deep spiral. When he pulls off moments like this, and he is very good at them, it more than makes up for his lack of coming out for crosses. He did his job today in what could not have been easy circumstances at all.
James Tavernier – 6.3
Not much to really reflect about Tav’s game here. We didn’t see too many crosses, which is perfectly fair really, but the fact that we got a lot more attacking intent from our left back would make you question what the skipper did on his side. Nothing else that stood out from his afternoon either, this score doesn’t surprise me.
Connor Goldson – 6.5
Defensively I don’t think Connor did too much wrong, he had a better time of it against Dykes than his partner did and, let’s face it, a clean sheet comes from the whole defence, not just the keeper. However, something that really irked me was the number of long balls that Goldson played, especially when we were playing with the wind. Asking way too much of his teammates to chase those balls down, and the fact that he continued to do this baffled me. Play to the conditions and adapt!
Nikola Katic – 5.8
Was slightly surprised that he was retained in the defence following Rugby Park, and again we did not gain too much from his day to suggest he has turned his own corner. He struggled with Dykes, so much so he was keen to put him in the same sentence as Alfie post game, and we again saw scenarios where it is clear he is not comfortable with defending the ball on the deck. Aerial balls are his speciality, yet even then he did not head the ball with conviction at a point when you really thought he would, with an attacking header from a corner that he almost looked in two minds about and in the end it looped over the bar when you expected it to be whacked into the net. Boy needs a confidence boost perhaps. Or maybe the ‘need’ is to have Helander back soon.
Andy Halliday – 7.4
You will never question the effort that Andy Halliday brings you when he starts a game. I don’t think there is a player in this squad right now who shows just how much playing for this club means to them as Halliday. It’s been said before, but he really is one of us out on that field. But here we saw him play well above his average and was very nearly on the end of a great piece of play that would have seen him score a great goal but for a magnificent save from Schofield. And even when he had the head bandage on (from my view in the Club Deck, seeing people usher the physios as they did was an incredibly worrying sight but I was delighted to see him on his feet as soon as he was) he would still show for the ball and race forward into attacking areas in the hopes of creating, not through crossing, but cutting inside, which is exactly what this kind of game needed.
Ryan Jack – 6.1
I thought he was better at Kilmarnock than he was here. The ball was given away far too often, he would play the safe pass back rather than bring it forward, any time he would risk a forward ball it was never the right option. That summed up his use of the ball in the main I felt. And there wasn’t a bite to his game that we have had previously. Despite all of this he will still be missed on Thursday, but we are missing that top echelon ‘Jacko’ at the moment without question.
Steven Davis – 6.0
I am maybe willing to forgive this more from this day as you had a blowing wind and a patchy pitch, neither of which are conducive to silky soccer, but in the same way that Ryan Jack struggled, you had the same issue with Steven Davis. I also was concerned at the fact that for too often Livingston had the chance to break and would do so through the middle, running right through the area of the park that Steven Davis should be covering, yet he was often nowhere to be seen.
Scott Arfield – 8.2 – Man of the Match
The hero of the day, doing what he is absolutely in the side to do, make those late runs from midfield and be a goal threat. We often talk about the fact that instead of wingers we have two number 10’s who occupy the wide attacking areas, which is jargon for two players who have free roles to be the creative outlets. What is different about Arfield in this circumstance is he is not a creative outlet, rather he is someone who needs to receive from the playmakers and finish. As we have witnessed, he is very good at finding the back of the net, from many different angles and distances (maybe not the penalty spot…) and it’s an option we should 100% continue to use. He may find himself in the middle, but he is essentially a second striker. That’s his role, that’s his purpose, that’s how we get the best out of him.
Ianis Hagi – 7.0
We predicted that our front trio post January would consist of Hagi, Morelos and Kent. And we were proven right as that is what Gerrard seems to favour for his front line. The way that we set up though I think is to the detriment of Hagi’s creative abilities. We are talking about a guy who can find a pass to any player in a good position, yet we limit the space in which he can find said players when he is playing in a wider area. As soon as he cuts inside, he produces the key pass to set up the goal. Should we change the entire set up to accommodate one talented player? I don’t think so. Should Hagi be given more license to cut inside and play in that central attacking area and create more opportunities? Without a shadow of a doubt.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.1
Whether it be the weight of off-field pressures, or just weight in general, Morelos has been off the boil this calendar year. A frustration that he looks to amend by coming deeper to create his own chances, yet as a result he is often not in the positions he should be when we get a break. Despite this we should be talking about a player who has three goals in three games, yet two of those goals were incorrectly ruled out. So even when he is not firing on all cylinders, he is still a top goal threat, and if he can get more from the players around him, then that smile of his will return to Ibrox soon enough.
Ryan Kent – 4.8
Let’s be blunt, Kent has been desperately poor lately. It’s not a laziness, it’s not an attitude issue, it’s the opposite. Trying to hard and making the wrong decisions time after time. He has a freedom in this system that he is not utilising to his full potential, one which we have witnessed at points this season, and rather than a physical tiredness I believe he looks mentally drained. I honestly believe that the best thing for him is to be put on the bench for a few games, give him the time to work out what he needs to do internally to get back to his best, and when he does that he will be the playmaker we know he can be.
Florian Kamberi – 6.4
This is the first proper run out we have seen from our new attacker, and as far as substitute appearances go, this was a very impressive run out. What you saw straight away was a calmness on the ball, a self-knowledge that he knew his quality and knew what should happen with the ball in that moment. He was also louder. Let me explain, he was pointing at where he wanted the ball to go, something I did not see from Kent. I know it’s a small thing but it shows a difference in mindset on the field, something that I think should be utilised in the coming weeks. In other words, let’s get Kamberi in the team and see if he can produce that from the start.
Greg Stewart – 5.2
Although there wasn’t anything that Stewart did to contribute, I couldn’t help but feel that this was precisely the kind of game that we should expect to see him in, and the fact we didn’t disappointed me somewhat. He is more than talented enough to be a difference maker in a clash of this level.
Joe Aribo – 3.7
Very little to work off for a rating here, but I think it is clear that work needs to be done by him to get himself back into the team, given the way Arfield (his main rival for that attacking midfielder slot you would suggest) is playing at the moment. Competition for places is a huge benefit only when a number of those players are doing well. Is Aribo doing well at the moment? Like many of the squad, no.