Sunday turned out to be a rather marvellous day for a number of reasons. The weather seems to be picking up, our team got a victory in a game we sponsored and due to events further north we extended our lead at the top to 18 points, with 8 games to go, and no games in hand for anyone to try and cling to. It was a tricky start to the game following the efforts of Thursday evening, and credit to the Dundee United side for having exactly the right attitude for playing us in that circumstance. Fortunately our goalkeeper was his usual sharp self and he kept the opponents out with a couple of really good saves. We then sorted ourselves out and put in a very good showing for the rest of the half, a shot from the edge of the box flicked in and a volley on the edge of the area deflected past the keeper. Things were looking good, and were about to get even better.
Shortly after the interval a rocket of an effort put us 3 up before a slice of good fortune but us four to the good, and it was a fully deserved score at that point. But the only low point was a late unnecessary consolation for Dundee United, a bit of learning required for a new recruit in that respect. It was a win that meant we just needed 10 more points to get that title officially secured, but by the end of the day that figure then moved to 7 after Celtic lost up at Ross County (who really seem to have their number this season, despite being one of the worst sides in the league, and I say that from a stats point of view to any Ross County supporters, I genuinely hope you stay up). Therefore, the chat really is beginning to ramp up now in terms of talking up our impending title victory. The next game is the most important one, just win that, but this day will be one of many that will prove vital in our race for the title.
Here is how you rated our players from a thumping home win.
Allan McGregor – 8.0 (7)
The first 25 minutes were a struggle for us to handle, some poor use of the ball and Dundee United having a go to try and catch us off guard. We required some strong goalkeeping from McGregor to prevent this match turning into a real slog. Some important saves, especially from Shankland who looked set to convert early on. As soon as Rangers found our rhythm, we did not see much from him until late on when we somehow managed to concede only our second goal of the season at Ibrox, and the frustration that McGregor showed, despite us being 4 up at the time, just shows the levels that he expects from the side. This is why he will go down as being a vital part of our successful season.
Leon Balogun – 7.3 (7)
I was glad to see him retain his place in the side at right back after his performance in that role on Thursday. This was another good display, and it was not a typical display from a central defender playing wide, he found himself running up and down the flank and put in some very dangerous crosses, being desperately unlucky not to have an assist from one of them. Given the news Tavernier will likely be back fit within a month, there is absolutely no need for us to look toward bringing in emergency cover, Balogun can absolutely play that role until then.
Connor Goldson – 7.0 (7)
Wearing the captains armband with pride and spreading the ball down the flanks as he always does. Was having a tough time at first, like the rest of the side, but as the game settled so did he and it was an easy enough shift for him until near then when Dundee United got their goal. Although his tackle was not the worst in the build up, he could maybe have done more in that move if you are going to be extremely critical, which I think we have every right to given how good we have been at the back this season. He will be keen to have another clean sheet under his belt soon though I am sure.
Filip Helander – 6.4 (6)
Filip Helander’s run of games he has played in that we have not lost continues, and even though there was not a huge amount from him on an individual level, there is no way that you can feature in as many wins without being an important part of that. He is not a showy defender but in games like this where there is no need to put in a supreme display then he goes through a game without you taking much notice. And good to see he is able to get some time subbed off as well, as he will be starting a number of games in the next few weeks.
Borna Barisic – 6.3 (6)
Having done so well from the spot on Thursday, our award of another penalty on Sunday seemed like a shoe in for a 5th goal. However, Borna once again hit his penalty to the keepers left, which this time was saved by the man between the sticks. All of his penalties have seen keepers dive that way, and a lot of that is down to the run up. It is very obvious that the only way he is going to hit it is that side. For me, we should again change the taker, as only one of the three spot kicks have been convincing from him, as great a free kick taker as he is. It should be one of the forwards.
Ryan Jack – 5.0 (5)
Off within half an hour due to injury which, given the reason he was absent for a period before, is not unsurprising. He just needs managed better, and I refer more to doing that himself rather than the management team. We are so close to the finishing line and we need as many players available as possible. Hopefully he will be back fit soon.
Steven Davis – 6.4 (6)
Even when he is not a stand out he still is so much fun to watch on the park. And he seems like the kind of guy who will volunteer to do whatever he is asked to do for the sake of the team. He was on corners in the absence of the skipper and he did his usual amount of work in the centre. It’s getting close to the time that he can be rested for some games and make a big impact in European ones…
Joe Aribo – 8.9 (9) – Man of the Match
And here is the evidence of why Aribo’s dips can be so frustrating! We all know that he is good enough to play as well as this and it was long overdue, but what a way to return to form. The hunger from Joe was evident from early on and he had an effort that nearly went in which put us back in control of the game after the difficult opening spell. It was then his effort that was directed in from Hagi that opened the scoring, and all through the rest of the half he was looking to run into space and create things, it was exactly the kind of display we expect. And then came his rocket of a striker at the start of the second half, smashing the ball in just inside the box giving the keeper no chance, a perfect way to secure Heart and Hand’s Man of the Match award. His overall game was so much better today, and we can just hope that we can see this kind of display more often from him, because the team can feed off of the energy he gives in situations like that. Very well done indeed big yin.
Ianis Hagi – 6.6 (7)
He opens the scoring with what may seem fortuitous but in fact he has to work well to redirect the ball in that situation. Aribo is clearly having a pop at goal and it is coming at Hagi at some speed. What he can’t do is try control the ball as there is every chance it rolls away from danger. But sending the keeper in the other direction is a smart bit of play from Ianis and it was a relief to all us supporters when the ball went in the net. An important moment in an otherwise straightforward afternoon for him.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.7 (7)
That smile is back. Let’s give Alfie plenty of deserved credit for taking the gamble at being ready to deflect that kick from the keeper into the net. If you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t win the lottery. And it was a goal he deserved for the effort and attitude he has shown since returning to the side after his absence. There is no histrionics going on in his game at the moment, just getting on with the business at hand. And as I fully predicted, our attacking play is really benefitting from him being back in the team. We need you playing, Buff. Keep at it.
Ryan Kent – 7.0 (7)
I mentioned this idea of taking the gamble when talking about Morelos, the same can apply to Ryan Kent. Yes, he does not connect with his volley in the cleanest of manners but it is still enough to cause the defence an issue, so much so it is deflected in for our second goal in the space of 3 minutes, which knocked the wind out of United’s sails. Again, he is someone who is looking more like an attacking threat in the last couple of games, there has been a shift with him among others. They see what is now so tantalisingly close, they want this done and dusted too.
Glen Kamara – 7.1 (7)
Came on as a sub for Jack in the first half and interestingly we looked a better team as soon as he came on! Now, is that coincidence? Given what we know he can do, it might not be you know. He did what Glen Kamara does and slotted into that midfield trio and it looked really solid, and it allowed Aribo to push up as well which, as we alluded to, benefitted the team.
Scott Wright – 6.1 (6)
Once again, a really good showing for the young man who must be due a start in the coming weeks, maybe once the title is secured. He absolutely looks like a player that can be part of a successful future, so I’m really happy to see the manager to continue to give him minutes.
Scott Arfield – 5.7 (6)
Important to keep the legs fresh in the midfield and I believe Scott will be an important part of the team this coming Thursday, so despite not having a great deal to do here it was still a very worthwhile cameo.
Jack Simpson – 4.4 (5)
A debut that will be important for him to remember, because he needs to do better at the goal they score. It doesn’t matter that we are four up and cruising toward victory, you still need to keep the same level of concentration for the full game. McGregor’s anger at conceding was clear and obvious and hopefully that stays with Jack. He needed to put in a much stronger challenge than what he did for that goal. But given his lack of game time recently, there is still a long way to go before we can make a proper judgement on him.
Jermain Defoe – 5.3 (6)
A league title is so close for him now, unless I’ve made a glaring omission it will be his first top league title and a player of that quality deserves that accolade, and his influence on the field during his time at the club, and more importantly the standard that he sets in training, has been a very important factor in what we have been able to do.