Our team tasted defeat for the first time domestically this season on Wednesday night as we were knocked out of the League Cup at the Quarter Final stage. A bitterly disappointing result given the expectation that we could really go and win our first trophy under Steven Gerrard, but yet again this team has found a way to bottle out of that opportunity. The idea of our side going a full season without losing a single game was one that did not cross the minds of many I do not believe, so I feel that the reaction from the fanbase is not one of being spoilt due to us losing a match, but more for the kind of match it was and the inevitable questions over whether we have a coaching staff and squad that really is capable of getting over the line. It really is up to the players to respond to these questions now, by winning and winning well in the next few games. There are no European distractions now, just constant Premiership games to keep the gap at the top of the table, and hopefully extend it.
The game started well for us when we took the lead early on and it looked as though we would be in a comfortable position to advance. But what St Mirren did, and you can only credit them for the way they played against us, was to not wilt under the pressure and instead turn the match on it’s head by putting that pressure onto us, resulting in some of our players going missing. We conceded a naïve penalty which was correctly called by an otherwise inexperienced looking referee, and in the second half we found ourselves behind with absolutely no defensive awareness. The game looked gone from our point of view until an equaliser from out of nowhere gave us hope of extra time and a chance to advance despite not deserving it. However, in the end the correct team won the night with a last gasp winner for the Paisley outfit. We will need to wait that little bit longer to lift that big trophy once again sadly.
Here is how you rated our players from a frustrating night at St Mirren’s stadium.
Allan McGregor – 5.4 (5)
Conceding three goals in one game, having not conceded that many in the last however many games he has played, can only mean that you look at him as having a poor evening. Not enough command of his area for the latter of the two goals we lose, and his manner toward the referee, though good to see when we are on top, can be frustrating when he does not do the job he is on the field to do in the first instance. It was not solely down to him that we lost this game, the defence in front of him has much to answer for, but no wonder saves helped us this time.
James Tavernier – 5.3 (5)
One of the biggest pieces of praise that you can give Jim Goodwin is the decision he took in targeting Tav and really isolating him. This really stunted the whole side, as so much of what we do is down to the work from the full back area, and when we are only playing Tav, as opposed to him and Borna, we perhaps overly rely on him. The man marking job that was done on him meant there was little he could do to influence the match in large parts, although he did have a free kick that hit the post and is somewhat involved in our equaliser. One of the many lessons that the management should take from this game is we need to make sure that if Tavernier is not able to provide the same quality, then who else can step up and how can we play to get the best out of them?
Connor Goldson – 5.9 (6)
The one bit of real quality in the game came from Goldson, who scored a brilliant goal to get things underway in this match. In a move that was very much akin to Madjid Bougherra, he brings the ball forward but finds the space to run into, before hitting a simple but effective shot into the net. It was a great moment which really felt like setting us on our way to an easy victory. Sadly he was not able to provide the same level of quality in the defensive sense, and we perhaps needed more leadership from him when things were obviously getting tougher. Something for him to improve upon, because a lot of other things he does are very good.
Leon Balogun – 4.8 (5)
For me, it is clear that Balogun is the third choice centre back at present. This was evident in this game as I felt he shirked under the pressure and I think he should do a lot better to prevent the second goal. He needs to support the young left back more but that can only happen when you are playing in a more confident manner than Leon was. It was not a good night and there will be some out there who half expected a performance like this at some stage. Thankfully his head injury is not a serious one but I would not imagine we will see him back too soon so as he can fully recover from that knock, but it is a good thing that we can welcome Helander back into the squad, who I believe is the second choice for centre backs at the moment.
Calvin Bassey – 3.5 (4)
A tough night for the young guy. One that he will need to learn from. Two of the three goals we concede have a lot to do with mistakes he makes. The penalty is conceded by him, he finds himself on the wrong side of the attacker and has little option but to bring him down. As a defensive full back he should know to not be so far out wide when the ball is not so far up the other end of the field. St Mirren’s second goal again comes down our left hand side, and this was perhaps a case of Bassey not wanting to concede another penalty and therefore is way too soft this time. You could maybe ask the manager why he does not replace him for Borna at the break, for a number of reasons, but you can certainly wish to know why it takes so long into the second half for the Croat to come on, because clearly Calvin was struggling. Like I say, this is by no means the end of his Rangers career, he just needs to learn a lot from the issues he had in this game.
Scott Arfield – 4.6 (5)
A typical Arfield performance in the first half, doing a lot of running and trying to create space and always closing down with and without the ball, although the effect of this was nullified this time around. He is, however, caught flat footed for the second goal and the man he should remain tight on has a lot more space to get the shot away. He is a player who we have seen make goals for us from this position, I do not think it is unfair to ask him to step up more when it is clear Tavernier is not going to have that same influence to do the job needed.
Bongani Zungu – 5.3 (5)
It’s a real shame, because for the first half of this game I thought Zungu looked excellent. He is really good at being in the right place to cut out passes in the middle, and I believe that he continues to show why he will be the midfield anchor for us in the future. I think we could maybe ask for a bit more simplicity in the passing side of things, and a bit more energy in being in our own penalty area to offer that additional defensive support. That job has a lot more to it than just covering a certain area of the field, Steven Davis is the perfect example of that, so there is still learning for Ben 10 to do as well.
Joe Aribo – 4.1 (4)
Not good enough. Simple as that. He is in the team to be an attacking threat, I can’t think of a moment where he justified his place in the team. St Mirren kept a very tight and compact defence, which for many players would require a lot more effort to get past, but we have evidence of why Aribo is the ideal player for a situation like that, and yet there was nothing in the way of effort here. I talked last time about him being the player you would want on the left hand side of the middle three when you are going to attack a game, as he does offer more attacking possibilities than Kamara, but not when he plays like this.
Kemar Roofe – 5.2 (6)
I think the movement of Roofe is what stood out here. Often he found himself with plenty of space without being able to receive the ball, this is what is so positive about having him in the team. There is always that chance that he will get the ball fall to him and he can put in a shot at goal. When we were chasing the game, he looked like the only player who seemed capable of doing something for us. Sadly, he was not given the opportunity to do so.
Cedric Itten – 4.6 (5)
A lot of the space that Roofe found was down to the movement that Itten was providing. Peeling off to the right hand side allowed Kemar to cut in. But, like Morelos, Itten needs to do more than just offer that movement to the side and further back, he needs to look like he will score as well. He had one shot from distance but that was about it as far as testing their goalkeeper. This would be a performance that Alfredo Morelos would be heavily criticised for had he been playing, so we maybe need to offer that same level of critique to Cedric given we all wanted him to start this game in this position.
Ryan Kent – 4.8 (4)
If you think through the games we have lost under Gerrard, a lot of them have seen performances from Kent similar to the one he put in here. First of all, I would lay plenty of blame at his foot for the penalty we concede. There is no need to dilly dally on the ball like that. I’m then looking for a lot more from him to get the game back to where it should be. He is in the side to be a catalyst, to create, to score, to do all sorts of attacking work, but we just didn’t see that from him, nor have we seen that in games he has played in that we have had disappointing results in. That is how important he is for us, that is why we need more from him when we are up against it. He needs to embrace that challenge, otherwise we need to ask what his role really is.
Borna Barisic – 5.9 (5)
Should have come on at half time so we could attack more down the left hand side to help out Tavernier, as well as being a more calming defensive presence, although I would not wish to say that he is a miles better defender, his strengths lie with what he can do with the ball. Don’t know where he is for the goal that seals the game if I am honest.
Steven Davis – 6.1 (6) – Man of the Match
Another player who should have entered the fray far sooner, but to be honest I am never really sure if he is a good substitute most of the time. The team feel more comfortable when he is in from the get go, although he scores the equaliser, a volley that hits off the turf and bounces in, which had we advanced from this tie would have been seen as a masterstroke.
Glen Kamara – 5.1 (5)
I don’t get why he is the one who comes on at this point. Had we found an equaliser earlier then yes I would get it, but when you bring Kamara in it is to shore up the midfield area and provide cover and a bit of passing quality, we could have done with a more attack minded player coming in at this stage. And even when he does come on, the old bad habit of simple safe passing reared it’s ugly head.
Jermain Defoe – 4.5 (5)
I do get why he is the one who comes on at this point. When you are chasing a game and needing a goal, the ideal man to come into the game is Defoe. But I think St Mirren set themselves up well to deal with this in all fairness, and it just was not meant to be ultimately. I’ve no doubt had we gone to extra time, that Defoe would have been the man to score that winning goal.
Ianis Hagi – 4.4 (4)
It is very concerning that it takes so long for Hagi to arrive in this game, whatever way you look at it. It is a concern that Steven Gerrard does not recognise the need for attacking play and to use the attacking options from the bench, or it is concerning that he does in fact know this but just does not trust Hagi at the moment. Whatever the reason, the use of Ianis Hagi remains a bit of a mystery.