Following a run of games where the performances have been below the expected level, our side put in an excellent display to defeat Ross County 5-0 to extend the lead at the top of the table to 23 points. Against a County side under new leadership in John Hughes, a man who has spoken highly of the way that we play the game, we proved him absolutely right with a top quality performance from early on in the game, making sure there was no doubt whatsoever about where the points were going. There was an energy to the side that we have been craving for weeks, and combining that with the hunger from the players, a team is always likely to be on the receiving end of a result of this magnitude. A header from an invigorated playmaker got things going before a second penalty miss in a row (the only disappointment of the day) was followed by a thumping header to put us two ahead.
Before half time, a fantastic individual effort from another attacking midfielder who was looking to put in a top performance put us three up at the interval, and we could put our feet up and already think ahead to how we wanted to enjoy the rest of our weekend. But there was plenty to still enjoy about this game. After riding a mini storm of Ross County attacks where they would twice hit the woodwork, our returning midfielder would find the net to add to the fans joy of him being back in the side and make it four, before our other centre back would get involved in the goalscoring fun to complete the five star display. Five different goal scorers, as dominant a performance as you could ask for in a match like this, the right attitude and the perfect game management. There was so much to be happy about here, and that ultimate aim is one step closer. The players, the staff, the fans. We all know it, we are beginning to taste it. And the planning of how we might celebrate that is an absolute joy. I certainly plan to celebrate this match with an espresso…
Here is how you rated our players from our fine victory against Ross County.
Allan McGregor – 6.4 (7)
I mentioned how we are beginning to plan how we will celebrate what feels like the inevitable. Well, McGregor had plenty of time to ponder such things himself (not that he would have I’m sure) as this was a typically quiet afternoon for the goalkeeper. Ross County had a couple of efforts which hit the crossbar, the latter of which saw McGregor slightly stranded in the area, and some questions over his positioning could have been raised had the ball gone in, but no such issues need be mentioned thankfully.
James Tavernier – 6.6 (7)
Let’s get the big issue out of the road first. The penalty miss. Having put his penalty in Aberdeen wide a couple of weeks ago, when we were correctly awarded the penalty then the hope was he could convert the ball and put the miss behind him. The fact he hit such a poor spot kick that the keeper was able to save with ease is the worry. It feels as though the confidence on them is just missing having felt so invincible beforehand. The initial thought is “change the penalty taker now”. But there is also something to be said for sticking with him given how good we know he is, despite this slump. Having initially felt that he should be taken off them, I am now more sympathetic to the latter idea. It should also be said that he plays important roles in two of the goals we score. The opening goal comes from a great lofted ball in from him which eventually was put away, along with a pass that set up the third goal.
Connor Goldson – 7.4 (8)
A defender who is beginning to produce a very respectable goal return for the season given we are still in January. He added to that tally here with the final goal of the game, a diving header into the far corner of the net, doing rather well to get down low to meet the ball and convert. His consistency has been fantastic throughout the season, and should be one of the main things celebrated about our defensive game once success is confirmed.
Filip Helander – 7.4 (8)
We welcomed back Filip Helander to the starting line up after a spell where Leon Balogun was starting games. I was very pleased to see Fil back in the side, and he proved my eagerness for his return to be justified with, not only a very assured defensive performance, but a great goal in the first half to welcome him back into the fold. From a corner, he absolute smashes a header in having found himself remarkably unmarked. I’m certainly hopeful of his continued showing in the defence for the foreseeable.
Borna Barisic – 7.4 (8)
I talked there about the two goals that our centre backs scored. Both of those were set up by Borna Barisic, from outswinging corners which were delivered superbly. His set piece work and ability to cross the ball makes him such a danger from corners, which is why he is often talked about as an ideal player for the Italian game. It feels that he will certainly make a move to one of the big leagues at some point, possibly this summer should he shine at the EURO’s, if they take place of course. If he does, off the back of a title win, his legacy will be one of a player who brought back a Rangers career from what seemed like an improbable place.
Glen Kamara – 6.6 (7)
Of late, his performances have not been as stand out as during the later months of 2020. This was another game where he did not do things that made grin, but his presence in the side was important for other players to have more freedom to cause attacking issues. In a way, this was like having Brahim Hemdani in a domestic game, it feels unnecessary but he does serve a purpose for the overall team.
Steven Davis – 7.5 (7)
I often write down things as the game goes on to help remind myself of certain moments in a game when I get around to writing up these articles. For Davis, I wrote down just one word, which has summed up his season. “Ageless”. Time and again he plays with such an energy that he feels like a young 21 year old looking to make his mark in the team, but in the same breath he plays as though he is wearing his slippers. To combine both those qualities makes him such a fun player to watch, and someone who is so important to this season. Perhaps I should have written “timeless”, because we never want it to stop.
Joe Aribo – 7.7 (8)
I was very critical of Joe Aribo last week. I was wanting him to be a bigger attacking influence, and was questioning his use to the side if he was not contributing in this sense. All credit in the world to him for putting in this excellent performance in this game. When I mentioned the positioning of Glen Kamara, the main benefactor of that was Aribo, as he was able to push further up the park and attack more. The release of the defensive burden for a change, meant that he was far more impactful. There was so much more drive to his game, which was best represented with the third goal of the game. Receiving the ball on the right, he shimmied past his man in a very typical Aribo manner, before curling a left footed shot in to the opposite corner, a truly fantastic finish which just goes to show that, when he feels he can, he can be a brilliant attacking force.
Ianis Hagi – 7.8 (8)
Kevin Thomson was worried that he would be ridiculed for picking Ianis Hagi as his man of the match when commentating for Rangers TV. But this was far from an “out there” call. He set a great tempo for the match, playing some great passes and hitting a shot just wide from 25 yards out. What continues to impress is his willingness to get stuck in. He is always targeted for fouls, but rather than let it show that it bothers him, he just gets back up and gets ready for the next challenge. This great work continued into the second half, where he set up the fourth goal with a clever cut back. This was a really good performance, for from a weird call for Man of the Match.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.7 (7)
His strength was key to our opening goal. Receiving the cross from Tavernier, he beats two of the Ross County defenders to head the ball across for Kent to head in. That’s a great way to set the tone for the match, and even though no goal came from Morelos, he was still important for how good we were. He was doing well in coming a lot deeper to not only spread the ball, but also covering for advanced full backs when need be. To be so energetic and to keep going, despite chances either being well saved or falling just wide, it just flies in the face of any idea of an attitude problem.
Ryan Kent – 8.1 (8) – Man of the Match
You would not associate Ryan Kent with heading the ball. But the opening goal came from his head, having received the header from Morelos in the box, he nods the ball over the keepers outstretched arm. What is funny is that he had some other headed chances in the game as well. Ryan Kent headers seem to be like buses! What was so good to see was that pressure immediately lift for him and for him to play such a fun game for the remainder of his time on the pitch. That was a joy to see, and clearly the support found that to be the case, and had he converted his shot that hit the post, it would have made things all the sweeter.
Ryan Jack – 7.3 (7)
The return of Ryan Jack was deeply welcome, adding to the options available in the middle of the park. For him to convert the fourth goal of the game with a smart side footed shot just added to the great feeling we got from him putting the ball into the net. He a real impression in other ways as well, dominating the ball, and he is a player whose return at this point is a huge boost for the side.
Jermain Defoe – 5.3 (6)
No goals for him to speak of, but a good run out for him which is important given he might be needed for some games in what could be a busy period of games coming up.
Cedric Itten – 5.9 (6)
I wonder if a corner is beginning to turn with fans impressions of Itten, and that people are becoming more and more aware of the fact he will be a part of our sides future in attack.
Bongani Zungu – 6.1 (6)
The question over Zungu’s long term future at the club is beginning to raise it’s head, and it is an interesting debate. Ryan Jack’s impact on the game, having come on at the same time as Zungu, makes you wonder whether Bongani is doing enough to earn that long term deal. A lot of fans will suggest that, although he has played his part in this season, it is not enough for the long term plan for him at this club.
Nathan Patterson – 6.3 (6)
Speaking of long term, a new long term contract for young Nathan off the back of playing here is great news. For however long Tavernier stays at the club, we know that Patterson has a real chance of taking that position for himself in the future, whether it be as an immediate successor or further down the line. This is crucial for our strategy for the youth programme. Right here is an example of what you can achieve at this club. Go and earn it.