Into the 6th league game of the season, and finally the club would unfurl the championship flag from last seasons success. The intention for this was to make sure that Ibrox would be full of bears who were unable to witness the triumph of 2020/21 from the stadium. The anticipation was it would be a grand spectacle, which would be followed by our team putting Motherwell to the sword and look to open up a bit of a gap at the top of the table. In the end, the day would turn out to be a bit of a damp squib, much like a number of performances from a number of our players so far this season who last year were able to pull off really good displays week in week out. The manager did not want there to be a great deal of ceremony surrounding the championship flag. He wanted his players to be able to focus solely on the match ahead. It is not unreasonable to ask why our players might feel distracted by this in the first place. All the same, the very short “ceremony” passed and the teams came out to begin the match. The opening moments of the first half showed some real promise. A new look front line were linking up well and some decent build up play led to a few chances before we would find the breakthrough in only the 11th minute, a corner was knocked on and headed in from close range from our new front man. Anyone not of a Rangers persuasion will have been deeply annoyed at the fact that he was in an offside position when he converted, but it’s not something that would have concerned anyone sitting in the stands. From there, we created a whole host of chances to try and extend the lead, but no shot at goal was enough to test the Motherwell keeper. It took our opponents until the 40th minute to have a real chance at goal, which tells you how much of the ball we had in promising positions. The issue, at times, was that we wanted to just have that extra second on the ball too often, and we were missing an aggressor to show a bit of selfishness and drive forward themselves. But this was not a major concern at the end of the first half. We were playing well, we just needed that second goal to feel far more comfortable in our performance.
The biggest issue the team had from Thursday nights European tie was that we did not start the second half well enough and in the end the game just fell away from us as a result. If that happens against a quality side like Lyon, then that is fair enough. For it to happen again here is far more concerning. After a few more chances that failed to find the net, we could see a bit of panic begin to set into the play, and whether the crowds anxiety over failing to find that second goal played a part in that or not, we could sense that we needed that goal soon. And Motherwell took advantage of some very slack defending on one of the very few occasions that our backline was asked a question to equalise. Now you could see a real panic in the team. All the intricate passing had gone, and the decision making going forward was all wrong. Players were either too rash and took on a shot way too soon, or they were waiting for what felt like an age to pass on responsibility to someone else. Either way, our play had gone, and we failed to find that winning goal. A draw which annoys on many fronts, in particular the wasted opportunity considering the number of points dropped by teams you would expect to be up at the top end of the table come the end of the season.
Here is how you rated our players from our home draw with Motherwell.
Allan McGregor – 5.8 (6)
He had to deal with some rotten passes back to him a few times in the game which didn’t make his life any easier, and at the crucial moment his defence did not help him when the equaliser came. It was a quiet afternoon for him in terms of the balance of play, and he is far from the problem in terms of the team’s malaise this season up to this point.
James Tavernier – 4.8 (5)
Questions over whether he does enough to rally the team when we are pegged back are fair. It was a more subdued game from him, and of course the equaliser comes from the right which fans will be annoyed at. I’d be looking for a bit more from someone who has shown in recent league games that he can turn a game around with a moment of quality. If he wants to be the guy that carries the team forward, he needs to do it in games like this.
Connor Goldson – 5.2 (6)
I’m comfortable in looking more favourably on him than other defenders as his lofted passes from the back again had a purpose behind them and with faster attackers latching onto them it was a reasonable threat, the issue was how that was then utilised from there. He is covering his man for the goal so he should be getting more support from other players around him there.
Jack Simpson – 3.8 (4)
Once again, a game in which he fails to convince in any way. The idea behind Simpson seems to be that he can be a left footed version of Goldson. That’s all fine and well, but we have to remember that this guy is 24 years old and in his professional career he has yet to make 50 appearances. If he was 20 or 21, then I think he would get a bit more slack from some fans, but he should be able to convince enough and frankly he hasn’t once showed any level of assurance. He is in no mans land for the goal, is far too late to react to the danger, and his reaction itself was incredibly weak. A lot of fans have completely made up their mind on Simpson, and you cannot blame them.
Borna Barisic – 4.8 (5)
In the same way that we ask about Tav’s contributions to driving forward when we need someone to step up, it’s fair to ask the same about Borna. You’re looking for him to deliver a number of quality balls into the box but it’s hard to think of that many that he did manage. It’s fine and well turning up in the Old Firm games, but our season is far more than that, and he needs to remember that there are other players who could fit into his position now.
Glen Kamara – 4.8 (5)
When I think about Kamara in this game I get really annoyed at the chance that we had just before their goal which really should have been taken, but it was not his fault that it didn’t. He rarely shines in matches like these because it requires a more attack minded player in there, but at the same time it’s so hard to leave him out of the team due to his overall quality. It’s a tricky balance.
Steven Davis – 4.8 (5)
That’s two games in a row now where Davis has been well below par and it is now at the point where he really needs a chance to recover as the legs look a lot heavier. The afore mentioned chance for Kamara comes from Davis running forward into enemy territory with clear space, with three options of what to do, and he picks the wrong one and executes the pass hopelessly. He is also the one who plays difficult passes back to the keeper, one of which starts the move leading to the Motherwell goal. The problem is, for the way we want to play, you have to play Davis. No other player can do that job like he can. So if you drop him, and I think we need to look at doing so at some point, then you need to accept you will play a different game. We need to be brave enough to do that, otherwise we may never get the best version of Davis back.
Joe Aribo – 5.2 (7)
Everything we did well in an attacking sense comes from Aribo, most notably his header which guided the ball to Sakala for the opener. This is exactly the type of game where him playing in the midfield makes sense, because we are going to be doing pretty much all of the attacking, so an extra option from deeper gives us a greater threat. He carries the ball forward really well but without that extra bit of pace which is sometimes needed. His passing was smart, his runs off the ball were clever, he was decent I thought. Like the whole team, there was a hesitancy once the pressure was on, but if he was able to have a bit more of a selfishness about him, I think we would have cruised the game.
Kemar Roofe – 4.8 (5)
What’s good about Roofe is I think he has the ability to perform the “wide 9” role and look to set up a fast frontman. He was really keen to try a lot of link up play with Sakala, but a few times there was just one too many passes that he wanted to play, and ultimately his threat in the box was not really there on this day. I think it’s a partnership that should be explored further, but Roofe needs to feel like he can take the ball in the box himself, because he can cause a lot of problems for defences.
Fashion Sakala – 6.0 (7) – Man of the Match
His first competitive goal in his first competitive start. He was given the opportunity to show what he can do and he did what you would expect of him. He is really quick and when he hits the ball with his laces it has a right sting to it, with both feet. He was in the right place to head the ball in for our goal, and there were other occasions when he showed that he can win aerial duels too. I thought he did well and will be worth sticking with to see if he can offer the same level of consistent threat as our main striker does.
Scott Wright – 5.0 (6)
I expect to see a lot of Scott Wright from the start over the next few weeks as he seems like the current heir apparent to Ryan Kent. Tenacious, quick and overall a threat going forward, it didn’t come off for him here but not for the want of trying. He does need to remember to play his own game though and not try to simply replicate what Kent does. He is good enough in his own right.
Alfredo Morelos – 4.4 (5)
Brought on when the game needed something extra in attack but he never really got a chance to test the goalkeeper in any way. A brief but all the same disappointing cameo.
Juninho Bacuna – 4.6 (5)
His first appearance in a Rangers shirt and I found it very interesting to see him play as a left sided attacker, as I was sure that he would play in Aribo’s place with Joe pushing up. He tried but was unlucky with a few attacking moves, but it is far too early to make a proper judgement on him yet, that should only be when he starts a game, which will hopefully be soon.
Scott Arfield – 3.6 (4)
If you’re bringing on Arfield you are wanting him to be quick and drive the team forward. His hesitancy perfectly summed up our problems for the final part of the game. Just so unsure about what to do with the ball, and it was frustrating to see that from him.