Match Ratings – Rangers 2-0 St Mirren

folder_openMatch Ratings, Rangers FC

In our last game of 2021, the echoes of player shouts on the park would once again be heard due to the capacity limit of 500 in football stadiums being imposed. I’m sure we can all be thankful for the scientific evidence for that decision to be taken…as you may be able to tell I still find the whole thing rather ridiculous. But I cannot say the same about this Rangers team, who go into the winter break (also laughable in terms of the decision making to bring that forward) with a 6 point lead at the top of the table following another win for Giovanni van Bronckhorst, whose start to life as Rangers manager has been absolutely fantastic. If you listen to the deranged lot from across the city (I don’t recommend doing so if you want to remain sane) then the win was a certainty given we seem to have a fear of playing in front of crowds, but if we look at this game from a rational point of view then we were always highly likely to get the victory given our domestic form. St Mirren, off the back of a draw against our nearest challengers despite having a number of first team players absent due to Covid, will have looked to produce another shock result against the other half of the Old Firm, and the average age of their starting line up significantly increased going into this game, partly down to some of the players involved on Wednesday being grounded for breaking curfew. As has been so common with our matches in recent weeks, the play would be dominated by us.

A few early efforts on goal were blocked by the St Mirren defence before we took an early lead courtesy of a corner. Whipped in from the right, the ball was nodded on before being nodded in by an unlikely source for a goal like that. But the early breakthrough, given our issue with that in the last game, was deeply welcome. It would only take us 10 minutes to then further our advantage. A superb cross from the left was headed toward goal by our striker, and despite the initial save from their keeper, he was then able to follow up that chance by smashing the ball home from a couple of yards. We had a number of chances to add to the scoreline before half time, but 2-0 would be how we would finish the first half, with the second half following a similar pattern as St Mirren would fail to test our goalkeeper. The only slight disappointment is that the team was unable to score again, despite the number of chances created, but this is overshadowed by the fact the overall performance level was significantly improved from the previous weekend, and there is a lot of evidence that the work down at the training centre during the week was certainly useful. And here is hoping the extra time given now will show similar results going into the second half of the season.

Here is how you rated our players from a professional Boxing Day display.

Allan McGregor – 6.1 (7)

As I eluded to, St Mirren failed to make McGregor work at all. But it really is quite amazing how often we have been able to “keep the zero” and despite not facing a shot on target, McGregor still plays his part in making this happen here. With hardly anyone at the ground, you can again hear the shouts and orders being barked from the keeper to those in front, he wants that intensity to be maintained, he demands the highest standards possible no matter who the opponent is. The defence dare not make him work, or they have to answer to him.

James Tavernier – 6.8 (7)

This was the most attacking we have seen the skipper be since the new manager arrived. A lot of the focus for our full backs has been on ensuring we are solid at the back and for them to play their part in that, but what we also got from him in this game was pushing forward as well as cutting inside, finding himself in central midfield a lot. Given how deep St Mirren were, it is not a huge surprise that this was the instruction.

Connor Goldson – 6.9 (7)

He gets booked in the first half for a challenge on the edge of the area that I wonder whether he makes the same decision on last season. I don’t think he needs to dive in as rashly as he does, with the game still being in its infancy. But that would only be a major issue if he had to contend with a lot of St Mirren attacking thereafter. It was minimal for him to face, and in reality he hardly broke a sweat.

Calvin Bassey – 6.6 (7)

Didn’t really notice a huge amount from him, a lack of required dominant defensive moments with a few forays forward without causing much problems for the St Mirren back line. I wonder about the long term thinking with Bassey now, in terms of where on the park he plays because there is no doubt at all that he should be playing. Amazingly, I think people will be happy whether he is in the centre or on the left. Before, there is no way fans would have considered him at centre back as being just as viable as being at left back.

Borna Barisic – 7.1 (7)

This was a welcome return to the starting line up for Borna, who was also getting forward a lot more, and would do a great bit of work down the left. Unlike Tavernier, he would stay on the wing, and he would play a key role in our second goal with a wonderful cross which was eventually converted into the net. That was an international quality ball and it is great to see him produce something like that again.

Glen Kamara – 7.3 (8)

Kamara’s first half performance was sensational I thought. His use of the ball was great, kept it simple, did all the right things and even managed to get forward a few times. He began to tire as the second half went on, a couple of loose passes which did not lead to anything. I think he has been fantastic in the deeper role, and I sincerely hope he is not someone who is sold in January as replacing that type of player for such an important role would be a huge challenge.

Scott Wright – 7.5 (8) – Man of the Match

He looks so comfortable playing on the right wing, and I thought the link up play with him and Tavernier was great. The skipper would often play the ball forward for Wright to chase, which is exactly what he wants to do, and I am not sure there are many faster players in the league. He opens the scoring courtesy of a header from a corner, not the usual goalscoring method for him but he will take it all the same. And his pace throughout the match was a real threat, a really good game from him and a great way to take the chance given to him.

Ianis Hagi – 5.6 (6)

I welcome the idea of playing Ianis more centrally, it is a role that suits him far better in this system than playing wide. Yet again, however, he fails to do anything that makes him stand out in a good way, compared to others around him who contribute far more. Granted, this was nowhere near as bad as his previous game, but that doesn’t say a huge amount about how he did, nor indeed can we say a huge amount about how he has done for us of late.

Joe Aribo – 7.3 (7)

I think we saw, once again, the importance of him getting forward from his much preferred starting position. His control of the ball, combined with everything else he offers in terms of goal threat, strength and tenacity, makes defenders panic when he gets on the ball, showing why he is rightly considered our best player at the moment. He even gets another assist here, heading the ball on for Wright to score.

Ryan Kent – 6.3 (6)

He starts the game well, again wanting to cut inside from the left and attempt a shot, and we love seeing that from him. That early intensity seemed to level out as the game went on, before he then had to come off with what looked like a small knock, although I doubt that would have caused much issue in terms of his involvement in games had we had more to play before the close of the year.

Alfredo Morelos – 7.3 (7)

He cannot argue that he was not given many chances from his teammates to score. There was a range of chances that he was offered, whether with the head or foot, but for him to only convert one of those chances is what concerns some. The goal itself is one where he refuses to give up. His initial header was parried back into his path, but he is determined to smash the ball in to get that goal. He looks happier on the park, and the new instructions for our main striker are far more to his liking. He easily could have scored more here though.

Scott Arfield – 4.9 (5)

Didn’t make a great deal of difference to the game when he came on to offer a different central dynamic to Hagi. I would imagine he will benefit from a couple of weeks of no games, although how he is managed with the consistent number of matches we will have after the restart will be interesting.

Fashion Sakala – 5.0 (5)

He does little when coming on to play the Kent role, which seems to be the preferred option for him as far as the coaches are concerned. I’m not sure he makes as good an impact when starting as deep as he has to in that situation, I’d like to see him as a striker in a game like this to see what he would do with the number of chances created.

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