Rangers entered the League Cup at the first knockout stage following a run of defeats which left fans in a far more annoyed mood than what would have been expected at this early stage of the season. As football fans we know that results not going your way can happen, but there is a combination of us being used to winning with so many of the same players only last season, as well as the paucity of some of the individual performances, meant that there was a pressure on the team to go out and not only win, but put on a performance that the fans could look at and say that there was a reaction to the last three games. When coming up against a lower league opposition, especially one like Dunfermline who, despite having done well to emerge from the group stage, have had an inspiring start to their league season, there is always that feeling of coming up against a side who have nothing to lose. And with them having a support at Ibrox, they would want to maintain a sense of pride in their jersey as well.
The way to squash any hope of them maintaining a siege mentality throughout the game is to start the game hard, and that is exactly what we did. A clever cut back and a finish in off the cross bar set the tone for what turned out to be a fun Friday evening for us. Our second goal came from an exquisite through ball which was then superbly taken on and finished, a desire that matched the quality of the assist. The provider then turned goalscorer thanks to an absolutely unbelievable cross from the left hand side which simply had to be touched for it to find then net, before another well worked move, this time in the middle of the park, produced another fine finish to make the score 4-0 at the break, and already you could hear the chat from around the stands over what we were doing so well, and how we could take that forward into our next run of games. As is fairly inevitable to happen in these circumstances, the game would calm down in the second half, but we would add one more goal from the penalty spot to give us a fully deserved 5-0 result, in a match where we were not really threatened despite some spurts of attacking intent from the visitors. The Quarter Final draw sees us face Livingston at Ibrox, which certainly holds no issue for any Rangers fan, especially in the fact that it is another chance to go to Ibrox, having been away for so long. You can always remind yourself about the caveat of who you are up against in games like this, but what we saw was really good from the team in terms of their intention, their decision making and their swagger. There were also a few players who made a very good case for themselves to feature more often in the first team.
Here is how you rated our players from our League Cup Second Round success.
Jon McLaughlin – 5.8 (7)
I had mentioned that Dunfermline had shown one or two signs of attacking intent but never really threatened our goal, which meant that Jon McLaughlin had as much to do as Allan McGregor on the night. That said, players felt comfortable playing the ball back to him to restart forward moves, and there was never any issue regarding his distribution of the ball, the hardly ever is though.
Nathan Patterson – 6.7 (8)
A first competitive appearance of the season for one of the real breakthrough talents of the last campaign and for a player so young you can already see the influence that the skipper is having on his career. Patterson has always looked very assured when it comes to the defensive side of his game, and on the few occasions where he was asked a question on this I felt he stood up well to it, so really where you judge him on for this match was him going forward. He had a chance toward the end of the first half that was unfortunate not to go in but it was the fact he got forward so quickly into that position that just screamed ‘Tav’ which is a real encouragement. He gets passed a player with no hassle at all. He is not flash, he does the basics but does them really well and never looks daunted no matter the opponent or occasion. For a player this young and this talented, it is absolutely vital that we manage him right. I actually think he is too good to loan out, we should keep that talent all for ourselves, so whether the coaching staff are bold enough to play him more often throughout the season is the biggest question.
Connor Goldson – 6.2 (7)
Goldson’s appearance in this game, given we had made a total of 8 changes to the line up, tells us a few things. It tells us that we have no one else in the side who can play that right centre back position. I say this given that Leon Balogun, a right footed player who we have seen play at right back, has only ever been used on the left of centre for us, and at no point has the manager felt that playing him and Helander together is in any way an option to give Goldson a rest. That then tells us that he is of huge importance to us and therefore the idea of selling him just seems to far fetched, despite many fears that he would simply see out his contract and leave on a free next summer. I understand the frustrations surrounding this and in a lot of ways I share them, but I find it highly unlikely the lack of pen to paper is down to the player himself. But for him to play this game and make his way through it, still with one or two moments that show he still has some cobwebs to shake off, but overall dealing with any attacking threats without too much issue, shows he doesn’t in any way feel he is too good for us and still has the desire to be on the pitch every single second. If we are not in the market for someone who can play that role, than Goldson’s continued spell at Ibrox is vital.
Jack Simpson – 5.2 (6)
In the brief number of appearances that Jack Simpson made last season, the optimistic among our support felt that for a young defender his use of the ball is good and the other parts of his game were there to be developed. Most fans though have yet to see anything that convinces them enough to suggest he is someone who is a long term answer. He was the only question mark about this game. Things that would seem so simple seem to be made a lot harder by him, and as much as he can play a nice pass, his primary job is to defend and at no point have we seen him look assured in doing so. We are a long way off him being a fair consideration to be a regular starter, and to be honest I would be amazed if that ever came to pass.
Calvin Bassey – 8.7 (9) – Man of the Match
The one thing that people said about Bassey in terms of improving is his crossing. Get that nailed and he would be a wonderfully well rounded full back with a huge amount of potential for someone so young. So the perfect answer for that was for him to assist two of our 5 goals with two very different but excellent balls from the left hand side. So early in the game, the eagerness to drive forward to win that ball and get into the box was great, but then the awareness and intelligence to not just blast a ball across goal but play it perfectly into the path of the on running Lundstram was genius. It echoed Borna Barisic’s assist for Ryan Kent at Parkhead in late 2019, it was exactly the right ball and it paid off. But then to produce the variety of delivery in the form of our third goal was genuinely out of this world. In plenty of space on the left flank, a ball curled in superbly which any forward would dream of being on the end of, and Hagi just simply had to rise to meet it and it was in. The curl, the speed, everything about that ball in was awesome. And you could see he was playing with his chest firmly raised, a confidence in himself that is exciting for any fan to witness. Many will debate whether he should retain his place or whether Barisic gets back in, but if Calvin continues to play as he did here, then Borna needs to step up again quickly.
John Lundstram – 6.7 (7)
A bit more like it for him, in particular getting us off and running so early on with his first goal for the club. I had wondered whether he would play in the sitting role or play as one of the wider central midfielders, and I think this has shown that the box to box role is what he is going to do for us. With his ability to get into the box and finish as he did here, you can see why. Smashing the ball in via the cross bar and you could see the relief having converted. This wasn’t a game that the midfield had to work too hard in to dominate, but overall I think the look of him was one of someone who now understands what level he has to reach every single time he pulls on that jersey. The expectation is that from now on, what we got from him here is the minimum.
Glen Kamara – 6.8 (7)
He is too good for a game like this, let’s be honest. Playing the Davis role, he went about his business with no fuss, won the ball back a number of times, and would bring the ball forward and play threatening passes which on a couple of occasions helped toward us scoring. He would have been a huge help in the Malmo games, and of course we will be without him again this coming Thursday, but make no mistake that when he is in the team our midfield is so much better, and few players at our club (if any) deserve a new and improved contract more than him.
Joe Aribo – 7.2 (7)
I’ve often gone on about my belief that you should limit the number of games that you have Aribo playing deeper, but of course on this occasion it made sense for him to play there. Without need to constantly try and win the ball back in the centre, it meant we could have extra attacking threat from this area, and Aribo is the only real option for that right now. But the reason why we are keen to recruit someone else who can do that job is because Aribo never seems to perform well for an extended period of time in that role. He started well, his link up play with Bassey was really encouraging, and of course his flick for Roofe’s first was genius, but I half wonder whether there is a stamina issue there as there always seems a point where he fades out and from there you see nowhere near the same effort. This is part of the reason why fresh blood for that role could be important, as this is no use for us when we are chasing games.
Ianis Hagi – 7.5 (8)
There were a few things that we witnessed from Hagi here that reminded us why he is just a level above those around him. Some of the touches, bringing down the ball with ease when some would have no hope. How he thinks about the game is also something you rarely see as well, much of that will have come from his father you would imagine. A goal and an assist for him in this game, with the assist being the far more impressive moment in my opinion. He receives the ball in the centre circle and only has Wright in front of him, but a number of Dunfermline players are also there. When we are not playing well, a player would tend to look backward to try and start an attack from wide at this point. But Hagi showed faith and trust in his teammate to do what he needed to do and played the perfectly weighted ball to latch onto. That vision and the way he executes it is something you only see from a top class midfielder. Credit to him as well for being in the right place to connect with Bassey’s cross to head in our third goal as well. He looked as though he had taken a knock and I was amazed he stayed on the park as long as he did, as by that point he had done his job, no need to stay on. But fair play to him for continuing. He is going to be very important this season.
Kemar Roofe – 7.5 (9)
This guy is also going to be very important this season and it is vital that we manage him in the right way, as it is clear that, right now at least, we are a far better attacking force when he is playing. His movement off the ball makes a huge difference. He is always moving into spaces that are optimum attacking positions, and although the occasional quick pass or flick does not come off, when it does, it leads to a clear sight at goal, and that’s exactly what happens with his first. Credit goes to both Kamara for the initial pass and Aribo for the backheel, but Roofe’s anticipation to receive that ball in the box is excellent, and he is such a good finisher that the goal was inevitable. Hauled down in the second half to win Rangers a penalty, he stepped up (although far too many steps for my liking when taking the spot kick) and slotted it home. He is enjoying playing in front of a full Ibrox, that’s three goals already from one start and a sub appearance. He is true quality, who can make the difference in any game.
Scott Wright – 7.0 (8)
He has been really good since the start of the season, a proper stand out, because he is playing the way we expect him to. When others seem to be struggling to find their rhythm, Wright has come back still looking as threatening as he did during his appearances last season, and what’s more exciting is there is even more to come from him. I absolutely loved the determination of his run from Hagi’s ball, and then the composure to wait, cut in and curl a shot past the Dunfermline keeper to make it 2-0. When players like Ianis know that you are going to work as hard as that to make those through balls pay off, they will happily oblige, and it leads to good football. He is doing the right things to set him on his way to be an important member of this squad going forward.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.0 (6)
Poor Dunfermline. 5 down and the last player they would want to see coming on is Morelos. A chance to get more game time in him following his later off season break, and he was unfortunate not to add to the scoreline when his effort was saved well. Of course, memories of his last match up against Dunfermline at Ibrox came to mind, where 2 goals put everyone on notice that this was a special player. Special players merit special fees, we should not need to feel forced to sell him unless the offer matches what he truly means to us, and gives us a chance to properly reinvest.
Scott Arfield – 5.3 (5)
Game is already won and done so this is just about giving others a bit of rest with him coming on. Possibly more common to see him in these type of games as opposed to the bigger European or domestic ones, although he has proven me/others wrong in the past, there is no reason to suggest he cannot do that again.
Stephen Kelly – (5)
*Apologies, Stephen Kelly did not feature on the ratings page.*
Good to see him come on although many would have hoped he could have started this game. Had results gone better for us lately I think that was possible but at least he could get on, albeit for 15 minutes, and sample the atmosphere. I still maintain the belief that he will be this seasons academy breakthrough and we will see him feature in a few games. I’d rather that than another loan, because I think he would be used elsewhere in other teams as opposed to where I think Gerrard, McAllister and co think his future lies.