The issues surrounding Rangers TV affected many of us, but thankfully our side did not suffer any issues on the park as we once again secured victory at home to move another step towards the title. It was a hard fought victory against a well coached St Johnstone side, on a rainy and cold Wednesday evening which we know all to well from years of going to Ibrox during the winter months, yet oh how we missed being there, especially if (like me) your match feed was interrupted due to technical issues. The first half was not worth writing home about to be honest, a total of three good opportunities that should have been converted from us, as well as some decent pressure from the visitors, gave the impression of a first half that would have been met with a chorus of sighs from the Ibrox faithful. The manager likely needed to remind the side to not rest on our laurels regarding our dominance of the league, and the performance in the second half was much more like the thing, especially in the opening phase of the second 45. A well taken goal was the climax of that, which seemed appropriate as other opportunities from that point on were limited. In fact, it was St Johnstone who had some very decent chances to equalise, but a fine goalkeeping display helped keep our 21st clean sheet of the season, and secure Steven Gerrard’s 100th win as Rangers manager.
Fans may turn round and suggest that the fact we are not blowing teams away is a worry. But the fact is, we are not a team that has to rely on scoring lots of goals, because really all we need is one to win a game. The key to our success this season has been about the work done at the back, to have only conceded 7 goals in the league this season is a frankly remarkable statistic. What also helps is the wide variety of attacking options we have, the depth of which is coming into use at the moment with certain incidents being re refereed. Trial by Sportscene, trial by Twitter, whatever you want to call it. Thankfully, absences of players is not affecting us anywhere near what it may have done in the past, long may that continue.
Here is how you rated our players from our victory over St Johnstone.
Allan McGregor – 7.6 (8)
It’s very important for our goalkeeper to remain sharp, when the night is as cold as it was, with the raining pouring down, to keep alert to any chances that a side might be able to conjure up. The credit due to Callum Davidson’s side is plenty, given they had a number of chances to score, and the credit for this particular clean sheet falls at the feet of Allan McGregor. The stand out moment came when, on 70 minutes, a couple of chances on the bounce had to be parried away, in particular his stretch to block a shot with his left hand was a fine save indeed. The level of concentration required when, as a team, we are so good at keeping to ball in the middle to final third for long spells, it must be difficult for a goalkeeper to stay present in such conditions. That, for me, is what makes a truly great goalie, to be ready at all times to make that one vital save that turns one point into three. How many points is McGregor worth in a season?
James Tavernier – 6.6 (7)
Despite St Johnstone having a more attacking mindset than other domestic sides we have faced, Tavernier still found time to wonder forward into the opposition half and be an attacking influence. Despite this, there were no real offensive highlights to mention, although some decent set pieces could have led to an assist or two had the receiver been more clinical. This is a little run of games that Tav has been on now where the goals have dried up might make you think he is not playing well, but I would ask you to look at the results we have had in that time? Can you honestly say that we have been badly affected by this? The truth, I believe, is that we are more aware of what teams are trying to do against us now, and as a result the job for the skipper has had to change. Does that take away from what he has done for us this season? Absolutely not. Will he go down as one of the key players in this more than likely title winning season? Absolutely.
Connor Goldson – 6.9 (7)
Like Tavernier, the ever present Goldson also had some chances going forward, in particular a free kick swung in from the right which found the foot of Connor, only for his effort to go wide. If ever you wanted a player to use his weaker foot in a situation like that, it was this moment. A left footed effort has a lot more chance of going in, but given he is a defender, it’s hard to lay much blame at his feet (right or left) for not converting. And I would say that he performed well at the back too. As much as the credit for the shut out does go to the keeper, it was still important to have the cover right in front which I felt Goldson in particular did a good job in providing.
Filip Helander – 6.6 (7)
As much as what Goldson does in noticeable, I often think that the defensive shift of Helander can sometimes go under the radar, and yet again we have a game where he plays and we do not lose. I’m such a big fan of his, it’s no wonder he was once in Serie A, the home of classy defenders.
Borna Barisic – 6.6 (7)
It’s funny that I mention Serie A, as I think that, when the sad day comes that Borna is sold for a (pardon the language) shit tonne of money, I believe Italy is the obvious destination. A full back that is great on the ball, crossing in play and with dead ball situations, clubs like Napoli, Roma and the like could do far worse than shell out 20 million plus on a first choice Croatian left back to provide such plays, as well as being a really competent defensive player. I would love to see him stay here for far longer though.
Ryan Jack – 7.4 (7)
A bit more game time for Ryan Jack which is never a bad thing to see, and he technically gets the assist for our goal, even though all the work is done by the goal scorer himself. I keep going back and forward on this, over where his primary position on the field should be. He has had good spells and tougher spells both as the right sided midfielder and the holding midfielder, and even if those roles were to combine for him to be the right sided defensive mid, you can again say there are decent spells and trickier ones. I guess as seasons go on we will learn what his prime position is, as I can see him continuing at the club for a number of years to come. As things stand, I think he will eventually find himself a bit deeper, but we know that he is capable of pushing up and grabbing the odd goal contribution too. I also think that’s the role he should be playing with the national team, a separate matter altogether.
Steven Davis – 7.7 (8)
It’s just the way he controls a game. He is so assured on the ball, he knows the sport inside out, he knows what guys around him need to do, and he know what to do to get the best out of others. Whether it be sitting back more, drifting forward, finding himself further wide, any manager would be lucky to have someone as intelligent as Steven Davis.
Joe Aribo – 7.4 (7)
Aribo in the centre is the best Aribo. Yes, he would find himself in a few different areas of the park, which actually is also a great benefit to us as the ability to adapt the shape to suit the game can really help a side, and Joe has the versatility to go from the left of the middle three to the right of an attacking trio and offer help in a variety of ways. But when he is in the centre, looking to push forward and continue to improve in terms of strength, I think the team is helped so much more when he is there. A happy Joe means a happy Rangers.
Ianis Hagi – 7.8 (8) – Man of the Match
When a club signs a player to be the star attacking option, fans can often have an expectation around the attitude of said player. If you think about someone like Neymar at PSG, when he was brought in the acceptance from the Paris faithful was he was going to want to be the star of the show, and other guys around him would need to put in the hard yards. Now, when you have players such as Angel Di Maria to facilitate this, then you can get away with it more, but can you imagine a player like Neymar getting booted from pillar to post in games and picking himself up and still contributing to the team as much as what Ianis Hagi does for Rangers? Now, that comparison is a stretch given I think Neymar now has certainly improved in this respect from when he first made that eye watering transfer, even so, Hagi is targeted by sides to try and put him off his game. His reaction? Score the winning goal. Coming in off the right hand side, he takes his time and waits for the chance to present itself, before placing the ball in. It is a superb individual effort, and was likely the only way we were going to score. What a turnaround from earlier in the season were fans were very nervous around the level of contribution he was making. Something has shifted and he is finding that form a lot more now. And I don’t think it’s just the coffee.
Kemar Roofe – 5.2 (6)
Roofe is a better player for us when he plays on the right hand side. His best displays come from there, where he has more freedom to move into open spaces in the attacking third. As we have often talked about, the role of the striker in Gerrard’s team is to come that bit deeper. This suits someone like Morelos, because he can use his strength to be more of a presence, but Roofe is a different player to that, and asking him to do that job is ever so slightly in the “square peg round hole” conversation. By all means he can be a main striker, but only if the team shape is different. But don’t fix something that is not broken (take note RTV) and so it made sense for the team play to remain the same. This clearly had an effect on Roofe’s game as a result, a chance he would normal convert being missed the main instance. The noise surrounding him with the challenge on Murray Davidson is one covered so much already, here are my opinions on this. It is a red card incident, given where the studs land on Davidson’s leg. It is not deliberate, but I’m not sure that matters when looking at the laws of the game. The referee has a clear view of the challenge, and deals with it at the time, therefore retrospective action in circumstances like that are frankly ridiculous. And the absolute lack of consistency regarding how Rangers players are re refereed and how others in the league get nowhere near the same level of post match scrutiny, that’s what is so ridiculous about it.
Ryan Kent – 5.5 (6)
The game would have been so much more straightforward had Kent converted the chance in the first half that went just wide. Look at his body language at that point, he is annoyed and from there you can see that it is not going to be his day. A player like Davis, or Tav, should be having a word in his ear getting him motivated to go again. It was not a bad effort, but he can do better. Someone should be telling him that and be making him feel like if he tries that again he will have better success. He just retreated into his shell after that, and for the rest of the game did not influence things enough.
Cedric Itten – 4.6 (6)
Given both Morelos and Roofe will now be missing for a couple of games, we can now expect Ced the Ted to be in the starting line up for some matches now. And I think we will see him perform that main striker role well, because he looks very comfortable dropping back into the middle. And, as we know, he enjoys a goal against a team from Lanarkshire, so hopefully Sunday’s opponents will suffer as a result of the big mans inclusion.
Glen Kamara – 4.8 (5)
When we sell him for 50 million, which league would suit Glen best? A return to the Premier League perhaps? Heck, even a return to Arsenal would not be out of the question. It should be to a much higher league, he has proven his ability in the Europa League, and actually our progression in the competition will depend on how good players like Kamara do in the knockout rounds.