Rangers have toiled at times this season. Against Falkirk, Houston’s well-drilled outfit made Mark Warburton’s men dig deep, and in the end 3-1 might have flattered the home side a tad. It was even worse at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium in Dumbarton – a wall of men simply would not let Rangers past, and Rangers had to grind out the result. Admittedly the away side had managed a 2-0 lead before a penalty denied Foderingham the shut-out, but the principle is valid.
Yesterday, though, was the first time Rangers have just been rank poor for the entire match. While a number of players did achieve pass marks (the excellent Holt, Ball, and McKay stood out), the overall machine was entirely lacking its WD40 and it must be conceded Rangers were thoroughly powderpuff for the majority.
Guilty time and time again of trying to walk the ball in the net, their opponents did a smash and grab when a rare (borderline first) Queens attack led to the opening goal on 35 minutes, some weak defending being punished by Derek Lyle.
Eventually Holt’s interchange with Tavernier saw Rangers equalise, but that was one of the few convincing moments by the home side, bogged down by their own refusal to resort to a different tactic.
And this is where a criticism and praise of Warburton has to emerge – Rangers doggedly stuck to the gameplan for 90 minutes, the plan A – unfortunately it just did not work. Queens were too well-organised, too drilled to allow Rangers any space in the opposition box. This is a criticism – Warbs did make changes, but not to the gameplan. Rangers remained impotent in attack. His refusal to employ a plan B was nearly Rangers’ downfall.
And here is where the praise came in – by the last 5 minutes Warbs changed his mind – realising his team was about to come unstuck in the league, he did change his plan. Route 1 became the approach, and it is why Rangers won this match in the dying minutes with their first header.
Oduwa just threw in a hopeful ball and Waghorn soaked it up, snatching all three points for the home side.
Rangers, let us be honest, were as close to ‘terrible’ as they have been all season. The stats are filled with home possession (68%) but the incision up front was poor and despite nevertheless managing a very decent 8 shots on target, the inclination to pass the ball to death in the final third nearly cost Rangers two points.
That stubbornness is a criticism of Warbs – he loves his quality football and we love him for that, but there are occasions when it will not work against a wall of 10 men who are determined to park the bus.
This is why he equally deserves praise for yesterday – for adapting to the match, and changing to route 1 by the end, he showed willing to win ugly, to do what it took to get the three points.
Rangers do have a Plan B, for emergencies, and yesterday showed it can work. But there are a few signs in recent matches that Plan A will not always work against teams determined to sit behind the ball.
“The best Plan B is to do Plan A better”, Warburton famously once said.
Yesterday showed that is not always the case.