While a recent poll confirms Rangers fans still firmly believe Mark Warburton’s men will win the Championship title outright, the form of the past two months has certainly given a little room for doubt.
While the wheels have not exactly fallen off the cart by any stretch, the mortality of the Rangers’ team has been more exposed in recent times, with two draws from the last four league matches indicating a level of vulnerability which was thoroughly hidden earlier in the season.
Saturday’s 2-2 draw against fourth side Greenock Morton was another example of a team suffocating Warbs’ free-flowing tactics with a claustrophobic defensive approach, and while most times the Magic Hat’s men do find a way to come away with the three points, two failures in the past four matches does hint at a need to adopt a plan B.
This site has been slaughtered for suggesting ‘route 1’ football, with accusations of Luddite thinking and a lack of appreciation for the current tactics. However, it is less ‘route 1’ football and more a ‘plan B’ contingency which may include, on occasion, more robust football to break down physical defences.
The fact is that plan A ultimately did not work on Saturday, as it did not v Livi last month; and in those circumstances is it truly that backwards to propose an alternative approach (whatever it may be) on, say, the 60th (or later) minute of these matches where Rangers are struggling to break through?
The toughest spell of the season is now upon us – with Morton nabbing an unexpected point at Ibrox in a match expected to be a stroll for the home side we have reached a critical juncture.
There is just a small inkling of criticism at both the manager and the players now starting to bubble to the surface, criticism they were immune from when the results were so incredibly good earlier in the season, but which now is viewed as valid from some quarters.
The only way to shut these doubters up is to produce six points over the next 14 days. That will be a tall order – Falkirk nearly took all three points from Easter Road on Saturday, and Houston’s men have been far and away a much better side this season than last. Warbs has to take his men to their patch and produce a masterplan to secure the win, because Falkirk now know that all three points arguably puts them in the title race.
They will be set up to win, and with Rangers’ abysmal defence fully exposed on Saturday against the supposed ‘easiest’ fixture of this Xmas trio, the travelling side are vulnerable.
Too many players just have not produced in recent times; this site was slaughtered for daring to suggest Tavernier needed a rest – to highlight how poor he was on Saturday only enhances that. Others too have been below par, with Oduwa’s cameo bordering on embarrassing and Kiernan having his worst match in a Rangers shirt.
And now questions are being asked of the manager too.
The best way to answer every one of these queries starts by beating Falkirk.