Craig Fowler gives his take on proceedings as Rangers make it three wins from three in the Ladbrokes Premiership
Rangers are on the march
Finally we have the Rangers side many assumed we were going to see in pre-season: not as good as Celtic, but playing in a manner which lets everyone know in no uncertain terms they are better than the rest. Not only are they riding a three-game winning streak, first in the league this season, they’ve also produced their two most convincing displays in the last two outings.
The switch of James Tavernier to the centre of the park really seems to be working. Hodson shores things up defensively, while still enabling Tavernier’s drive and power to be a factor in the game. Tavernier missed three great chances against Accies, but as we know from his scoring pedigree last season, the fact that he’s getting into such positions should serve as a warning to future opponents.
Old habits die hard
After a fairly even and very dull opening 20 minutes or so, Rangers really took a hold of the game and kept it within their grasp until Dougie Imrie brought Hamilton back into the proceedings late on.
The goal came out of nothing and was almost entirely of Rangers’ own doing. Even when they are in control of a match and the defence is playing reasonably well, there’s still a softness there. Had Georgios Sarris’ late header sneaked in the other side of the post, Hamilton would have snatched a draw, a result that seemed inconceivable a short time before.
Rangers have adapted in recent weeks by going more direct and yet Andy Halliday, and then Rob Kiernan, were each guilty of dallying on the ball in the closing stages. They need to add a little more street smarts to their game.
The Waghorn of last season is alive and well
Rangers’ early season inconsistency seemed to affect Waghorn more than any other first-team member. An injury sustained on the opening league game of the season (against Accies, funnily enough) wouldn’t have helped, but he really seemed out of sorts and led to rumours he was on his way out in January. Well, if he does go on to make a success of himself in a Rangers strip, at the top flight level, we can probably look to Friday’s match as the turning point.
Even in the opening 30 minutes he still seemed unsure of himself. His touch wasn’t quite there and he struggled to make an impact on the match. Then he began to grow in confidence, which exploded after he got his goal.
You could see it in his celebration. It meant the world to him. From then on he terrorised the Accies defence and could have netted a hat-trick after grabbing the all-important second.
This was the player from last season. The man integral to Rangers’ success. Now we know the player still exists at a higher level it’s time for him to sustain the level of performance.
The same goes for Barrie McKay, another who got off to a slow start and is beginning to show such consistency having performed well in each of the last three games.
Shut down Ali Crawford, you shut down Accies
There’s been a lot of talk of Crawford earning a move to a bigger club recently. That, coupled with his excellent showing in the first meeting between the sides, makes his performance against Rangers on Friday all the more disappointing. He never really turned up.
The way Accies set themselves up, they had two choices in attack. They could either go with Rakish Bingham and look for balls into the channels or in behind for him to use his pace and strength against isolated defenders. Or, use Alex D’Acol and his ability to link effectively with the midfield, and get runners going beyond him. The went with the second option but failed to get the necessary support for the lone forward.
Rangers deserve a little credit, but Crawford just did not look at the races. It was a rather subdued display.
BT Sport need to bin three men in a booth
BT Sport’s coverage of Scottish football is, on the whole, excellent. However, there is one thing they need to stop, and that’s the three men in the commentary booth.
It doesn’t lend itself to football. The action is just too quick. In Basketball and in the NFL, the extra man allows for conversation to occur when the game has its stoppages and, when there’s good chemistry between the three, it can enhance the viewing.
What viewers were treated to on Friday night was Chris Sutton and Terry Butcher taking turns to crack jokes. In the end, it detracted from their jobs as analysts as neither spotted that Hamilton had changed to a 3-5-2 formation until the 64th minute when the home side had made the alteration at half-time. It also marginalised the brilliant Derek Rae whose voice, if anything, should be given more time on the air, not less.