After what felt like an age, Rangers finally got back on the field to begin this seasons Scottish Cup campaign (in April, how weird!) with a home tie against a Cove Rangers side who have risen through the leagues to be in a strong place to push for the Championship next season. Despite their rise, this was not a game that Rangers fans were worried about in terms of a “Cupset” and the team put in the right kind of performance to get the job done and, more importantly, find that flow again in terms of how we play. The game played out in a manner of getting the result sorted in the first half and take our foot off the gas in the second (relatively speaking). We created some good goalscoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes without success, before the floodgates opened, converting 4 times before the interval. It started with a distance strike from our veteran front man, before two close range efforts from another forward finding his form again, helped by some great work from team mates in the build up. A fourth goal from our very exciting young full back before the break put even more shine on things, and our place in the next round looked as secured as you could want it to be.
The second half did not see us drop our tempo as such, but we changed the shape to suit the 11 players on the park better than our usual set up. Because if this we did not look as dangerous, even though we did have chances which we just could not convert. The structure of the second half was interrupted by a nasty looking injury to Cove Rangers midfielder Jamie Masson, and we certainly wish him a full and speedy recovery from what looked like a nasty knee injury. It tells you everything when the genuine highlight of the second half was the antics of Alfredo Morelos in the stand, a man who looks like he is absolutely loving life right now (and I certainly hope that continues in Glasgow for a long time!) as the game faded out as the rain poured down despite the lovely sunshine of merely the day before, what an odd country we live in! Next in the cup, it’s a home Old Firm tie and the opportunity to finish their season whilst knocking out our (let’s be honest) biggest threat to winning the double is one the players should be very excited for, and some players certainly made a good case for starting that particular match.
Here is how you rated our players following our Scottish Cup victory against Cove Rangers.
Jon McLaughlin – 6.4 (7)
It has been such a long time since we have seen McLaughlin appear for us but once again he comes away with a clean sheet in what must have been the easiest/most boring game he has ever played in. No shots on goal from Cove, despite the intent to try and play good football, to their detriment, and McLaughlin can boast another game without conceding for us. The question will now be about whether he will play the remaining cup games. For me, I would flip it and, bar the Old Firm league tie, I would play him the remaining league matches.
Nathan Patterson – 7.6 (8)
Available for selection and it was a great result that he was, a fine performance once again from one of the most exciting talents in Scotland right now. Never phased defensively, he is clearly learning from his captain in regards to how he moves forward, which basically is “do it a lot.” At first he did not look as dangerous as an attacker but he is really improving on that and he grabbed his second Rangers goal just before half time. Putting the pressure on Cove who were trying to play their way out of defence, Patterson took advantage of a slack pass and slammed the ball in. He is going to have a great career if his progression continues on this current trajectory.
Connor Goldson – 7.0 (7)
It must be tricky to work out what it is you really want to do as a centre back in a game you are so dominant in. Do you just spend time chatting with your keeper? Connor decided that he would join the attack and try to add to his goal scoring record for the season. He tried a couple of times but he did not manage to replicate the excellent League Cup goal he scored earlier in the season. But you cannot argue with the stats, he got another clean sheet!
Filip Helander – 6.8 (7)
And he once again plays in a domestic game where we do not lose, a superb run of results in that respect for someone who is less inclined to push forward as Connor and would rather just stick to the simple defensive intricacies. He took a knock right on half time that was initially a bit worrying for us to see but the fact he was able to run it off for the full second half means we need not worry.
Calvin Bassey – 6.2 (6)
We haven’t really seen the young lad since the party incident so this was a good opportunity to remind us of what his strengths are. We saw a couple of lung-bursting runs that reminded me of why I honestly believe his nickname should “The Locomotive”. But I think there is still a lot to work on regarding his game in terms of the decisions he makes, mainly going forward but also at the back. This isn’t a major issue of course as he is still young enough to develop a lot in both aspects and there is clearly a lot of talent there, but I think we are a while away from considering him a natural starter and I believe that most fans would consider Borna Barisic one of the players we need to hold on to this summer, which says a lot I think.
Scott Arfield – 6.6 (7)
One of the players who I felt was struggling to regain his top form from earlier in the season was Scott Arfield, so this was a really good chance for him to spend some game time finding that again and in a lot of ways I think he did. If you look at our second goal, the movement from Arfield is exactly what he can give you and is such an asset for the way we play. Yes the finish could have been a lot better but thankfully it was tapped in on the rebound (an assist for Arfield?) but he has every right to make the claim that he helps make that goal. If you consider our next couple of games, tougher opponents obviously, I think we hugely benefit from an on form Arfield so I am very much hoping this is a good sign of that.
Steven Davis – 6.4 (6)
Only the 45 minutes for Davis given he was booked (somehow) in the first half but a massive shoutout to him for breaking the UK caps record. 126 appearances for a country that has rarely made the finals of competitions is such a great achievement and speaks volumes for the quality of midfielder he has been for so long. Even better that we get another season of him to come, he absolutely deserves the title of “legend”.
Glen Kamara – 6.8 (7)
As much as line up decisions made total sense from Steven Gerrard, it was still a bit surprising that we played what many would consider our strongest midfield in this game. Perhaps this is a clue toward what our intentions are in the next couple of weeks. There wasn’t a huge need for the best parts of his game here so it was a quiet game, although he does get the assist for the opening goal.
Kemar Roofe – 7.6 (8)
Roofe also falls into the category of players who had been struggling to find their form again but I think he absolutely showed progress in that respect here. Two goals, both close range finishes but it’s all about the movement and being available to convert two different types of tap ins. The willingness to constantly close down and be a fully energetic attacker is also what helped give that impression so let’s see if he can keep that up next weekend and, if so, I would expect him to be up front going into the next cup tie.
Jermain Defoe – 7.2 (7)
He has found the back of the net every calendar year this millennium. That is an absolutely brilliant stat, and I doubt many of his first strikes of the year were much better than this one. Having had a couple of chances before hand, he picks up the ball 30 yards out, drives forward and then unleashes a shot past the Cove keeper. For someone who is so often described as an “in the box striker”, this was some strike. His influence on the way we attack is still so important and I think we should definitely look to keep him for at least one more year because he does not look like he is slowing down yet.
Scott Wright – 8.4 (8) – Man of the Match
Finally he gets that start that so many fans were hoping for. And that desire for him to get that chance was justified by the way he once again impressed on the field for so many of the reasons we have mentioned before. Of course, getting the assist was a huge help, but so much more was what was noticeable. His strength on the ball, his speed, his attacking desire and his maturity on the field. Everything in fact, every aspect of how he plays, suggests a player who was born to play for this club. I continue to grow very excited by what his Rangers future holds. I am all in on Scott Wright.
Ianis Hagi – 6.0 (5)
45 minutes of game time following a memorable international break in which he scored his first senior goal for Romania. Given the fact we did not do a great deal in the second half, it is understandable not to view him as a key contributor in this game, and what is interesting is the conversation about what games he should be starting from now till the end of the season. He absolutely has a part to play but I am not convinced that part will include the upcoming Old Firm games.
Cedric Itten – 5.2 (5)
A while since Ced the Ted played and it would have been lovely to see him get a goal here but it was not to be. One of the more recent times I wrote about him I talked about playing him in a system that would suit him better. I think that applies, but given how we play is a proven winning formula, there needs to be more onus on Itten to adapt to find a way into that starting 11. It could be a big summer for him.
Greg Stewart – 5.2 (5)
This certainly feels like the kind of game that he would get a game in rather than other upcoming fixtures. Sadly, no big contribution from him, nothing like the very promising appearance in the St Mirren game.