Peterhead 2 - 2 Rangers: Little saves Rangers’ blushes
RANGERS completed the long journey from liquidation to league football in undistinguished fashion yesterday.
Scorers: Peterhead - McAllister 62; McLaughlin 82; Rangers - McKay 26; Little 90
With Peterhead harbour in sight, the Ibrox side discovered little shelter here as the home team overturned the visitors’ half-time lead and then made Rangers fight for the point they eventually earned with a scrappy 90th-minute equaliser from Andy Little.
Peterhead had been considered an arduous first assignment for Rangers. However, a goal from Barrie McKay mid-way through the first half seemed to help settle the Ibrox side as they acclimatise to football in the fourth tier of the Scottish game. Peterhead manager Jim McInally later accused his own players of showing Rangers too much respect in the opening half. Unusually, he was concerned that they were committing too few fouls.
Rangers endured a more traditionally rumbustious welcome from their hosts after the interval. The introduction of Martin Bavidge, who replaced another veteran in Robbie Winters, helped spark Peterhead into life. His bulky thighs helped him shield the ball and allowed Peterhead to advance up the field.
Dorin Goian and Carlos Bocanegra, the Rangers centre-halves, had already endured an uncomfortable afternoon. It grew worse for them as Peterhead equalised through a wonderful Rory McAllister finish and went ahead with an equally fine strike from Scott McLaughlin, with just eight minutes left. Kevin Kyle helped spare Rangers’ blushes with a header shortly after coming on although Little completed the job of nudging the ball across the line.
Any relief felt by Ally McCoist, right, at salvaging a draw was eclipsed by anger. “I am just a bit shocked at how we defended today,” he said. “I am not accusing them of anything, but I did warn the players before the game not to expect to turn up at these away grounds, or at home for that matter, and pick up three points without going through some hard work. This will have been a rude awakening.”
Rangers could dispense with the fripperies associated with SPL football. They even played in training tops after the referee declared their black away strip to be too hard to distinguish from blue.
Lee Wallace was quickly sent sprawling after a full-blooded challenge. “It’s a man’s game now,” was one predictable shout from the main stand, although Rangers steadied themselves.
Off the pitch at least Rangers could have landed in more hostile places than Peterhead when kicking off their Irn Bru Third Division adventure. The welcome was warm, as might be expected in a place known as the Blue Toon. Half ’n’ half scarves celebrating the historic occasion were on sale while bag-pipers were also out in force, as were stewards and police officers. They showed forbearance to the good number of away fans who sneaked into the home end of the ground and who were not shy about exhibiting their allegiance to Rangers.
Indeed, it was in front of these supporters that McKay celebrated scoring his first competitive goal for the Ibrox club after 26 minutes. The little striker fastened on to a headed flick from McCulloch and brought the ball down with the sort of first touch not always seen at this level. He then drew Paul Jarvie before sweeping the ball into the net.
One felt compelled to note another significant moment in Rangers’ history, just as reporters did at Glebe Park last month when Andrew Little opened a new chapter with the opening strike against Brechin City. An own goal at Ibrox against Hearts in 1890 stands as Rangers’ first ever league goal, but McKay’s strike is the club’s first non-top flight league goal.
McAllister had come close on several occasions and on 62 minutes he made Bocanegra look a bit of a chump as he shaped to shoot before cutting the ball back. With the Rangers centre-half sprawled on the ground, McAllister picked his spot and stroked the ball into the net.
Better was to come for Peterhead as they feasted on Rangers’ defensive frailties. Alexander could only punch out a Ryan Strachan corner and the ball fell to McLaughlin on the edge of the box. The midfielder steadied himself before firing an unstoppable shot into the net. Rather than attempting to rescue a draw, Rangers should already have regained the lead. Substitute Fran Sandaza wasted two golden opportunities, most obviously when tamely shooting into Jarvie’s hands when given a clear chance to lob the ’keeper. Fellow replacement Kyle did manage to make his mark with a header from Dean Shiels’ corner in the final minute of normal time, one later judged to have been bundled over the line by Little.
“We don’t play them again for eight games,” said McInally afterwards. “So the circus can move on somewhere else.”
Peterhead: Jarvie, Scott Ross, Strachan, MacDonald, Sharp, Redman, Cowie (Deasley 87), McLaughlin, Noble, Winters (Bavidge 58), McAllister (Maguire 83). Subs not used: McCallum, McBain.
Rangers: Alexander, Broadfoot, Goian, Bocanegra, Little, Black, Macleod (Kyle 82), Wallace, McCulloch, Shiels, McKay (Sandaza 65). Subs not used: Gallacher, Crawford, Hutton.
Referee: S Finnie. Attendance: 4,485.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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