A European Hangover was present following Rangers’ Europa League qualifying play off win on the Thursday, as our side looked rather lethargic in a 2-0 home win over Ross County. A number of changes to the side were made to freshen things up and give some players a rest prior to fulfilling international commitments in the upcoming break. Weirdly, the team played in a far more subdued manner and had we not taken the lead through a correctly awarded penalty in the first half, it would most certainly have been goalless at the break which would have really put the nerves right up. That still happened when we could not convert a number of good chances in the second half and Ross County had two really good chances to equalise from headers. Fortunately, a late goal from a sub secured the win to keep us top of the table, having played a game more, going into the Old Firm clash in a couple of week’s time. What is certain is that we will need to play a lot better than that to win that game. You can understand players who have played consistently to be feeling the strain, but what was worrying was the way in which those who came into the team here not providing that extra boost, but instead allowing the team as a whole to regress to the level of Ross County, a team that in all fairness shouldn’t be one that will give us difficulty at Ibrox
The saying “winning ugly is a sign of champions” will always be relevant though. I’ve seen plenty of people suggest that had that game taken place last season then we would have probably dropped points. That is a fair point to make, it’s not impossible that could have happened. But instead, a potential 1-1 ended up a 2-0, because we have a better squad now and that squad is being used more. Given the fact we now have European group stage football, this squad will need to be used a lot. And they will need to perform better than many did today.
Here is how you rated our players from our pre international break win.
Jon McLaughlin – 6.3 (7)
Back in the starting line up for Allan McGregor and, given he seems to be having a number of knocks to contend with at this stage, this could be a fairly regular occurrence. The chances that Ross County had had nothing to do with any issues Jon McLaughlin had in the game, but at the same time there were no major tests for him either. A clean sheet, another to add to his tally, and I continue to be impressed with his composure on the ball in the box.
James Tavernier – 7.4 (8) – Man of the Match
Recently awarded the leagues player of the month for September, Tavernier continues to be the clear stand out for his consistently good performance level. And we certainly needed that quality in this game as that was lacking from the rest of the side. 8 goals in 8 games is an incredible run of form, and never mind about the fact that a lot of them have come from the penalty spot. As we witnessed in the latter part of last season, it is not so easy to convert a penalty. But Tavernier has really brought back his spot kick prowess. But it hasn’t just been his goals that have been so superb, his overall effort level has been simply outstanding. Up and down the right hand side, sometimes being the furthest forward player on the park, and frankly looks more of a goal threat than our forward line at present. A well deserved accolade for the skipper, let’s hope he takes full advantage of the time off before getting straight back into the groove again.
Connor Goldson – 6.0 (6)
My abiding memory of him was letting his man get in front of him for a clear headed chance for County. You’re always taught to never allow your man to get in front of you at a set piece opportunity, and given Goldson’s quality, it was really surprising that he so easily allowed Donaldson that opportunity that he struck wide. Goldson himself should have scored in that exact net in the first half, which contributes overall to a less remarkable day for the centre back. He looked tired as the game went on, with some muscle cramp potentially coming into play. I think he will benefit from lack of games for the next week, but we need to keep an eye on this as the games will be coming thick and fast and he has featured constantly so far.
Leon Balogun – 6.1 (6)
A return to the starting line up for a player who definitely looks like being the clear third choice option. He will find it very tough to break into the defence long term, but given his ability, that’s a great back up. On paper, this is the type of game that makes sense for him to be brought in for, but it was an unremarkable performance in all honesty and it contained no stand out moments. But that could well be down to how good Helander has been.
Borna Barisic – 5.4 (6)
Picked up a slight knock in the game which hopefully doesn’t cause any longer term problems because Barisic is an important part of how we play. I say that, despite the fact this was another tough grind of a display for the Croatian international. This entire run of games in between international breaks has seen Barisic look a lot more subdued (Gibraltar being the only exception). As much as we should be happy for our players to represent their country, we are maybe watching the downside to this when it comes to Borna, and I’m sure a lot of us would be happy enough with him sitting out these upcoming fixtures. Nevertheless, he is in the squad, and will no doubt feature. Fingers crossed playing there and doing well will knock him back into alignment again.
Scott Arfield – 6.1 (6)
Our whole midfield didn’t really work today, even with the recently super consistent Scott Arfield in the middle. There was less creativity on this occasion, and that’s maybe down to the same fatigue we have mentioned with other players, and that is perfectly understandable from his point of view with the energy levels in recent great games from him. It could even be as simple as suffering from who he was playing alongside here. No international football for him to worry about this time, so a chance to properly rest up. Given what our first fixture is, that is a very good thing for us indeed.
Ryan Jack – 5.3 (5)
Ryan Jack returned to the starting line up after his injury lay off and was utilised in what we can call the “Steven Davis role”. It is called that role because only Davis can really do that justice in the squad at present. It’s not a role that works for Jack, mainly due to the fact that he seems unable to provide enough forward impetus from that deep. He focuses a lot more in almost sitting in between the centre backs. When you are playing a team with far less resources than yourself, however, that seems unnecessary. The return of bad passing habits in the midfield also returned with the return of Jack and Kamara together. These two players are good players in their own right, but they are not a good combination. Far from it.
Glen Kamara – 6.4 (6)
Kamara has looked far better of late than he did today. When he has had Steven Davis alongside him, it allows Kamara to focus solely on what he has done very well, which a lot of the time relates to work off the ball. But when Ryan Jack is playing that deeper role in the way that he does, it makes Kamara’s involvement seem unnecessary. Davis has a good working relationship with Kamara I think, but not Jack. The passing back and forth without that forward drive frustrates the watching supporters, and we cannot let that continue.
Jordan Jones – 5.2 (5)
It made absolute sense to bring Jones back into the side for Hagi, these are the kind of games he was surely signed for. The problem that he maybe had in this match was the lack of space afforded, unlike at Fir Park. This is where the conundrum rises. Teams coming to Ibrox will more often than not set up in the way County did, and if that is the case, it will be harder for Jones to have a huge impact in games. Where as in the bigger games, teams tend to offer a bit more space, but the increase in quality again makes it harder for Jones to make the necessary impact. It is a hard one to work out, maybe his very best role is impact sub? Whatever it may be, Jones is a decent option for the squad but is not going to be an obvious consistent first team pick any time soon.
Alfredo Morelos – 4.6 (5)
This was another poor performance for Morelos, even worse than Thursday in fact. He should be scoring against this level of opposition, and had plenty chances to do so, but his conversion in front of goal is surprisingly off at present. His only positive contribution was winning us the penalty in the first half. Caught offside on a few occasions again as well. Is it unfair to ask if other things have been on his mind lately? If so, that distraction will now be gone as he will be with us until January at least, so he needs to get his act together and prove in the upcoming big games why he deserves the price tag we have set on him. We do not want to live in regret over missing the chance to sell him for his optimum amount.
Ryan Kent – 5.6 (6)
Kent has put in a lot of effort lately, like Arfield, although the end product has been less obvious. I’m sure he will enjoy resting up before the game that we fully expect him to show up for. If ever there was a time for him to show up, it is Parkhead in a couple of Saturday’s time. It would be concerning if he was unable to bring that fire, as that would be a run of games (including a rest period) where he would be classified as “fine” without being “outstanding”.
Calvin Bassey – 5.4 (6)
He continues to look solid enough when he features. I believed that he could have started this game and continue to develop, but when he does enter the fray the supporters felt less concerned about his inclusion than what they might have. I don’t anticipate him starting against Celtic unless Borna suffers an injury with Croatia. If he does, then what a brilliant test for Calvin.
Ianis Hagi – 6.0 (6)
I actually thought Hagi looked quite sharp for his spell on the park. He looked hungry to make things happen, despite not having enough time to produce results to that effort level. Very interesting that we have rated his cameo higher than the other attacking players. Maybe he has had that turning point after the Galatasaray match where he looked a lot better.
Brandon Barker – 6.5 (7)
As far as birthday presents go, a goal at Ibrox is one I wish I could have! It was a great run inside, mainly down to the fact he was patient enough to wait for the right moment to drive the ball home to make it 2-0 and a much better looking scoreline for us. This was a fine goal, a highlight in what was a poor game, and that is exactly what you need from your fringe players.
Steven Davis – 5.6 (6)
We saw how much Steven Davis was missed, the difference he makes in this system, in this side, is huge when he is at it. It made sense to rest him given the number of games he has played and is likely to play in the next week and a half. He is too important to misuse, so if we need to rest him for the odd game and as a result play slightly worse, then this is the game to do it.