Match Ratings – Rangers 1-1 Heart of Midlothian

folder_openMatch Ratings, Rangers FC

Another big game at Ibrox in a top of the table clash, and another opponent from Edinburgh as Hearts made the journey west to face the league leaders. This had all the makings of a game that could really kick start a season which, although we are where we should be in terms of the table, has in many ways failed to live up to fans’ expectations in regards to how we perform in games. A lot of our wins have been scrappy, 1 goal in it affairs, and we have dropped points needlessly in some games already (more on that later). But the chance to move 4 points clear against one of the better sides in the league would be such a statement and a marker for the next run of games. And we started the game with that mentality. The crowd were really up for it, singing loud and proud after yet more off field nonsense from people trying to talk about things they have no clue about. The midfield looked really good, probably the best the centre of the field has looked for us this season, which was really important up against Hearts’ 343 set up. Our control of the ball was very good, we gave Robbie Nielson’s team very little to work with, everything from middle to front was looking really promising. But our finishing was letting us down on a few occasions, whether it be failing to get the shot away properly or the shot itself just being too tame. A chance from a corner was looking as though it would be the best we would get in the first period, with the ball just somehow refusing to cross the line. But a shot from outside the area rifled into the net from our most in form player at present, and we went into half time with a deserved lead.

The note of caution during the interval, certainly for myself at least, was that for a while we have seen matches where one half is almost opposite to the other. A strong start would result in a massive drop in performance in the second half, and vice versa. We needed the team to play just as well for the majority of the second half to see the game out and really give the support total security in what the team are achieving on the park. As has happened far too often, though, we did not start the second half well enough. We lost the ball in their half far too often, we didn’t have a shot in anger, we just failed to do what dominant teams do which is put the foot on the throat of the opposition. How the manager reacted to this was making changes, which in hindsight were poor calls, not in terms of who came on, but who they replaced. The remainder of the game saw Hearts start to gain confidence and go on the offensive, with the game looking for all the world like it would be saved by our star goalkeeper. But in the last minute, he himself would make the error that allowed Hearts to equalise, and for the second time in three home games, we dropped 2 points. Fans have reacted to this in a number of ways. You have those who feel that enough is enough and certain players need dropped for an extended period. Others will look at how we played far better in parts than what we have done so far this campaign. For me, as much as we need to understand why we have allowed ourselves to feel quite sour about a game we should have won, we need to hold on to the improvement in performance from some players and look to see that become a consistent part of our game in the coming weeks and months.

Here is how you rated our players from a game in which 2 points were unnecessarily dropped.

Allan McGregor – 5.6 (6)

He wasn’t really tested in the first half which is a credit to how we played, although his distribution, which is normally solid, seemed really strange and way off what he would want to do. As Hearts came into the game and started to put the pressure on our goal, McGregor pulled off some really smart and typical saves for his quality, and I was all set to write about how he ended up saving us the win. But a corner floated in was missed by Allan, who was trying to punch it away or catch it or caught in two minds as to what to do, and Halkett was able to nod in at the back post. This error cost us the win, although I refuse to put the blame at his feet, he could have been helped a lot more by those in front of him to have seen the game out long before then.

James Tavernier – 5.4 (5)

We tend to judge Tavernier based on how he did last season, and I absolutely include myself in this, but I think we are making a mistake by doing this. I’m not sure the skipper will ever have as good a season as last term, so expecting him to do so will likely only lead to disappointment. Judging him on what we know he is able to do, I can’t think of a good cross he put in the whole game. There wasn’t a major defensive issue, a lot talk about how he loses his man for the equaliser by stepping away from him, but in his defence he probably sees Roofe leaving his man and makes the decision to go for who he thinks is more of a threat, in any case the whole team dealt with the corner very badly. He hasn’t been at his best for a while, we can think back to the St Johnstone goal as the most recent time he “stepped up to the plate” and given there is another right back who has more recently shown he can make a big impact, both for club and country, it will be interesting to see if the manager sees the right back position as one that is up for grabs.

Connor Goldson – 5.7 (6)

Gets an early booking which was easy for the ref to give, although any foul Hearts were looking for seemed easy for the ref to give, but I’m not sure that inhibited Goldson much at all. I don’t think he was terrible, I think he found the air easier to manage than the deck, as was seen with the late breaks from a few of their faster forwards.

Leon Balogun – 5.9 (6)

How he doesn’t open the scoring I do not know, he did almost everything possible to try and knock it in yet somehow, whether it was good goalkeeping or just so many bodies on the line, the ball just would not find it’s way in from Balogun at that corner. He showed decent enough athleticism, even getting into the left wing area with the ball having come out of defence with it. Takes a booking which was the right decision at that moment. As much as people want to criticise the defence, that in no way was the problem about this game.

Borna Barisic – 6.0 (7)

In the first half, when we were playing some very nice stuff, I thought Borna was doing his fair share of decent work. He was keen to get into that area of the park where he could lift a ball in, and as was the case against Hibs, his delivery was looking a lot more like the thing. His influence faded in the second half but that was more down to the pattern of play than anything he had done.

Glen Kamara – 6.0 (7)

This was probably the best game he has played for us for a while, so much better in respect of how he brought the ball forward. His ability to get past players on a number of occasions was really good and it had a sense of variety to it, which we now need to see from him a lot more regularly, as before this was left to just the bigger games. It’s the best the midfield has looked for a long time, and Kamara playing like this is a major factor in that.

John Lundstram – 7.6 (8) – Man of the Match

Not just for the goal, but overall, he really is the teams bright spark right now. And imagine someone saying that now considering some of the opinions of a month or so ago! He is making that position in the middle his own, his instinct to do all he can to get the ball back in our possession is great, and of course the goal is something very special. He has threatened this sort of strike before, but from distance he hits a shot that Gordon has no chance of stopping, I am sure a contender for goal of the season. If only that goal would have held even more importance to it. Certainly the in form player of this Rangers team at present.

Joe Aribo – 6.8 (7)

Really good at bringing the ball into the final third, but the issue was what he could do in terms of goal threat. He is good at cutting in from the right and hitting a shot with his left to curl into the net, we have seen this against Ross County and Dundee, but he wasn’t able to create the space to do that, nor does he seem to demand the ball enough. I would say that him playing with Kamara and Lundstram in the midfield three is the way to go for the next few games. Let’s get a bit of consistency in that area of the park, and they are currently the three best options I think.

Ianis Hagi – 6.6 (6)

He put in a hell of a lot of effort, giving his all and making good forward runs. What was missing was that final moment in front of goal. There was a moment in the first half where he looked like he had space to run into in the area but took on the shot, which I though was far too soon. We saw what he did to the German defence whilst playing with Romania, we should be seeing him replicate that for us. Far too often, a lack of communication with him and others, meant that we lost the ball cheaply, whether players were on their heels or just doing that thing where they assume their teammate knows what they are thinking.

Alfredo Morelos – 4.5 (5)

Hmm. OK, we now need to have a bit of a serious conversation about Morelos this season. Asking the question “what has he done for us this season” is a fair one, and of course many will refer to the winning goal against Hibs as a recent example, and that absolutely is valid. But from a domestic point of view, has he had a really good game for us this season? I’m not sure he has, not where he should be at in any case. He had chances (plural is important here) to kill the game, and he failed to score when on some occasions it looked easier to score. There are more options to choose from up front now, and sticking with Alfredo when he is not in form seems like a confusing decision. He could easily have been one of the players to come off during the game, but he is kept on probably in the hope that he replicates what he did last time, but when it is not your day then you can tell as a fan watching. One of two things now need to happen. He either needs benched for the next game, and only brought back in when it is clear his form has improved, or if he does start the next game he needs to show that he has vastly upped his game from where it was at today.

Scott Wright – 5.2 (6)

I’ve still not seen enough from Wright to make me think that he can keep Ryan Kent out of the starting line up when he returns to fitness. He starts the game off well, good speed and getting forward nicely, but after a certain point that seemed to stop and it was not a huge surprise to see him be the first to come off. He still feels like an impact sub type of player, but there has to be a point where you transition into a viable first eleven option, and I think he starts games recently because there is no one else that plays that role in that way.

Juninho Bacuna – 4.9 (5)

People putting the blame on Bacuna for the result are doing so because they need to rationalise what happened, that there has to be a fall guy and if so it cannot be someone you are too enamoured with in the first place, so Juninho is the easy option. That would ignore the fact that he played two balls that turned into great chances, and he is unfortunate not to have come away with an assist or two as a result. Had the finishing been better, we are talking about a player who gave us that extra edge to finish the tie. He’s an aggressive streak about him too, which you get the sense of on the field, but the sideline coming together was also evidence of this.

Steven Davis – 4.9 (5)

I get why he comes on, he did a really good job of helping us see the game out previously, but it comes back to this question of both him and Lundstram playing in the same team, and the shape of the midfield that looked so good before had been lost to a great extent. It’s about the balance of the midfield, something that neither player should be blamed for, but ultimately it causes confusion and that’s where Hearts can take advantage in their attacking play. The manager needs to be brave and smart with his decisions from the bench. People may disagree but I think you have to make the choice of one or the other, not both, and you have to stick with that.

Kemar Roofe – 5.4 (5)

I was surprised that Roofe was the choice of player instead of Sakala given how late back Kemar was from playing with Jamaica. I was more surprised at the fact that he did not come on in place of Morelos though, but he has a chance in the area with a shot which is deflected onto the post which was in the end a real frustrating one. I think we should make a call on a front line we more or less stick with for the next run of games, and I would have Kemar as part of that.

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