A baby step


Regular readers to this site (and even non-regulars) will be more than aware the last entry invited manager Mark Warburton to pack up his things and leave. After seven months of patchy, unreliable performances and inconsistent results, it felt like the edge tipping over when St Johnstone comfortably contained Warbs’ men at Ibrox and really should have won with something to spare.

What a difference 90 minutes has made to absolutely everything.

Today’s display against a very strong and in-form Kilmarnock side was everything fans (yours truly especially) have expected and demanded Rangers deliver for months now, ever since the dip in form which left a sour taste in the mouth after last season’s Old Firm semi win.

From the first whistle Rangers gave Lee Clark’s men absolutely no quarter, with constant high pressure, defending in numbers and intense attacking with off-ball movement the likes of which we have not seen in maybe a year from Warbs’ side.

With Michael O’Halloran starting his second league match in a row, and McKay continuing to warm the bench, dare I say Rangers’ manager has been more than stung by the criticism, despite his claims to ignore it, and has taken some of the advice more personally? Finally giving O’Halloran a chance is a big statement, especially at the expense of the seemingly undroppable McKay, while former favourite Martyn Waghorn’s poor form seems finally to have been recognised by the gaffer and he too is on the outside looking in.

And it paid off today. O’Halloran was a man possessed – Rangers fans ached to see the lad given a substantial run in the team; well this afternoon justified that canvassing as Warburton relented and let the former Saints attacker do his thing. He was the most dangerous player on the pitch, getting to the byline with gay abandon and terrorising Steven Smith to name just one.

And while there were other personnel questions (Hodson back on the bench, Crooks only making a cameo, Senderos still not getting a sniff) the system today was different. Warburton may claim ‘it’s all about what we do’ but today’s system was not one set up without the opposition in mind. Right back Tavernier was restored to counter Killie’s pacy opposite number in Jordan Jones, and while Clark’s man had some joy, it was short-lived. And significantly we saw that aforementioned high pressing. Rangers looked energised in a way we have almost forgotten; Holt, Halliday, Windass and Miller especially ran and harried the visitors off the ball, and made it impossible for them to get anything like a head of steam.

And at the back, the sight of a swamp of Rangers players organised on the 18 yard line and in the 6 yard box (essentially two banks of four) is the kind of defensive robustness absent essentially through Warbs’ entire tenure until now.

Rangers, for the first time today, actually looked like they knew how to defend – as if something has changed with the tactical approach and instead of being constantly exposed (it still happened, just not as much) at the back, numbers swooshed back when the ball was lost to cover a counter.

It just looked far more like the kind of organisation Rangers need. Coupled with Kiernan hitting form ever since his solid show at Hampden, and maybe, just maybe there is a baby step being taken here.

This was a midtable side at Ibrox, the kind of team Rangers have struggled with this season, and they simply blew them away.

Conspicuous by its presence was Rangers’ late-running too; inside 40 seconds Holt burst onto the edge of the box and put one just outside MacDonald’s upright – that late-running midfield support in the box has been a glaring deficiency of Warburton’s system; well, today he got it right.

There is a long way to go, and this progress could worryingly unravel at County next week. But (some) readers will be pleased to hear this got Warburton a stay of execution in yours truly’s eyes. He showed, at last, the ability to adjust his system and his tactic to deal with a different opponent. And if he continues to do this, to modify how he sets the side out, and continues to show more willing to drop out-of-form players as he has now flirted with, he will eventually get this right.

Credit where it is due – this site has slagged Warburton off rotten recently, and it stands by that criticism. But we are delighted to praise him and the players for a good day’s work and hope he and they continue to prove us totally wrong. Starting in the Highlands next week.

Keep it up.


  1. This was more like it the team was full of energy and they moved the ball a lot quicker than Wednesday night. Long may it continue if its a sign of change by Warburton to a more flexible approach he has to be given credit

  2. Agreed. Terrific improvement.On this performance the starting team should be kept in place. Holt, O'H, Windass, Miller and Garner were well up for it. Garner's movement off the ball gave Holt and Windass room to run. Delight to watch.
    Still think Gilts is a helluva keeper to be sat on the bench.Hills and Miller were outstanding.O'H man of the match. Outstanding.

  3. 100% improvement, getting players to do what there good at,great to see clint hill organizing and mouthing at the back,and garner chasing down the keeper (shades of nacho) a lot more energy and high tempo from the whole team,not finished by a long way but long may it continue.

  4. The difference was the players he selected yesterday. They gave more bite than what we had been seeing. The pass for the 1st goal was just compleatly different than all season where everything has been fairly square and that just unlocked Kilmarnock defense. We need a number of players playing like that and making runs which was better to see.
    And maybe our defense is finally just settling, I remember thinking after hills 1st game at Ibrox that he was just what we needed, someone to control that back line and he's proving just that. Now all we need is gilks to be our 1st keeper since he def commands his box a lot better, as well as a better shot stopper like we've been used to for the last 20 odd years

  5. Playing O'Halloran was the correct decision. Few would argue with that. Crooks should have started in front of Halliday. We already know how Andy plays as a DM. He is slow and useless there. A total liability. Crooks should have been given the chance.
    If MW insists on playing 4-3-3 then Rossiter must be the DM when fit. He's quick and can tackle. In that system McKay should play on the left and O'Halloran on the right. Mckay has struggled lately because he gets "doubled up on" when Rangers have no real right winger playing. Kilmarnock doubled up on O'Halloran because we had no left winger. He did well regardless, but would obviously appreciate a bit more space in behind the full back to use his pace in.
    If playing 4-3-3, here's the best we've got.

    Tavernier, Senderos, Wilson, Wallace:
    Windass, Rossiter, Forrester:
    O'Halloran, Garner, McKay:

    Of course with our slow CB's Celtic will do us again with pace if we play 4-3-3 against them. Our CB's need protecton from their quick forwards and driving midfield. So it must be 4-2-3-1 against them. Here's our best 4-2-3-1 lineup.

    Tavernier, Senderos, Wilson, Wallace:
    Rossiter, Crooks:
    O'Halloran, Windass, Forrester:

    Since it's no good trying to change things on the day, we need to adopt 4-2-3-1 NOW. We can go to 4-3-3 if we need a goal and have to try a new approach in a game. But that must be our starting formation until we get some decent, quick CB's in.

  6. So William, we have the best performance all season and your assessment is only 6 of the team that started yesterday should be our starting line up, and only 5 of that team should play against Septic. You are either drunk or a Septic spy. In what universe do Senderos and Wilson make the starting eleven? Jeez…

    • When we play Celtic, the threat in the air will return, big time. Only Senderos is any good in the air, out of our four CB's. Wilson has the best distribution on the deck out of the four.
      After we got taken apart at Parkhead the lesson was clear. We cannot face teams that attack us with slow CB's exposed on the flanks and a solitary central midfielder in front of them. A slow DM at that.
      Barca have the players who can play that system. Quick skillful CB's and a quick hard tackling DM. They have a number of players who fit the bill. We don't.
      Our CB's MUST be protected or they will get run ragged again. If we keep on repeating the same mistakes the same results will follow.
      MW recognised that, to an extent, when he changed the formation for the Hampden game. But he changed it on the day. The players were not given a chance to develop the formation. He also picked the wrong players in the wrong positions in my opinion. the result was predictable. Or should have been.
      Rossiter is clearly our best DM. He can tackle. He's robust. He is fairly quick. So if we play 4-3-3 with one DM, he's the best pick.
      If we play 4-2-3-1, with two DM's, he should be joined by Crooks. Andy Halliday is slow, can't tackle and is a lightweight. Against teams that sit back and park the bus he gets by. He's a weak link against teams that press him. Especially if left on his own. That's why MW brought in Ball last season. Why play him there at all when you have two recognised DM's you can play. One of them even has the height and strength to help out the CB's at set pieces.
      We beat lesser teams before being ripped at Parkhead. We kept playing 4-3-3 and won a couple against QoS and Inverness, before being put under enormous pressure at Hampden.
      The 4-3-3 failed against St Johnstone. I lost count of the number of times players were popping up on the edge of our box with shooting chances. Killie don't play quick counter attacks in numbers like St Johnstone. They don't apply pressure anywhere near as much as Celtic.
      It was good to get a win. However, if that team and formation is put out against Celtic it WILL get ripped. Slow CB's. One slow DM. A recipe for disaster. Never mind the threat in the air.

    • I agree that Wilson has the best distribution of our centre halves and should always be in the team in my view, but I'm not sure about Senderos. I also think your being a bit hard on Halliday but he isn't as good defensively as Rossiter, who reminded me of Barry Ferguson when he captained England under 20s in the summer, or Crooks. I'd like to see Halliday play farther forward instead of Holt who is too small and a liability defending set pieces. We should play 4-2-3-1 every game from now on leading up to the next old firm derby. Souness said today that a system should cut errors and playing out from the back maximises errors and there's nothing wrong with playing it long to take pressure off the defenders. Warburton should take Souey's tactical advice on board.

  7. Your constant critical diatribe is embarrassing, I sometimes wonder if this site is run by rangers supporters. Subsequently it's refreshing to see a positive article for a change. Warburton is a breath of fresh air for our club, dragging us into the 21st century with regards a root and branch revamp of the club; it's a long term project so I hope you will keep this surprising positivity and be less parochial than your previous articles….

    • Totally agree with you Alan. I have been calling for patience while this site calls for heads. We will get there eventually and it would be nice to hear positive remarks from this site more often.

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