Sunday, 22 March 2015

What a difference a win makes

With five draws in a row as Rangers’ last five results, including two under new manager Stuart McCall, hopes were on the floor for today’s clash with Hibernian.

The squad had been bereft of quality, passion, effort, endeavour or cohesion, and it is safe to say anything other than a defeat would be viewed as a bonus.

With the last three results v the Hibees being defeats to an overall score of 9-1, the Easter Road outfit went into today’s match as clear favourites and had the added motivation of stopping their city rivals Hearts winning the Championship simply by drawing or better.

To say this match did not follow the script is the understatement of the year, and was the first sign of McCall starting to impress his ideas on the team and juicing substantially more out of them than either of his predecessors did.

The initial lineup was hardly promising, with the usual dross of McCulloch, Mohsni, Law and Miller punctuating proceedings, and it only doused optimism even further.

But after 30 minutes, while play had not been sparkling from Rangers, it had been tactically spot on. The home side were completely stifled by McCall’s tactical shift to a 3-5-2, which reverted to 5-3-2 in defence, and Scott Allan, the destructor at Easter Road last time, found himself isolated and snuffed out by pressing from Murdoch, McGregor et al to hound him out the game.

With Hibs’ best player nullified, and McCall’s constant badgering from the touchlines to keep the intense pressing going, their threat was absolutely non-existent.

It was the first time in forever Rangers’ first team worked this hard – McCall laid out a plan of suffocating the opponents, stopping any of their midfield expressing themselves; where their midfield had overrun Rangers in January, it was absent presumed missing today.

Even Nicky Law, after a very quiet first 30 minutes, came into life and started to deploy the ball to more effective use, while McGregor and his two partners, McCulloch and Mohsni, one slip from Bilel aside, were pretty comfortable at the back it has to be said.

Nicky Clark might not have had the most effective game, but his effort, workrate and enthusiasm meant he was a constant thorn in Hibs’ rearguard, and Lee Wallace rampaged up and down the flank like the Wallace we know and love.

There is a long way to go, but if this is the start, at last, of McCall’s revolution at Ibrox, and this kind of industry, desire, workrate and unity can be sustained, promotion suddenly goes from a complete busted flush to a genuine possibility.

The Rangers might just be back. At long, long last.
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