If you can’t be good, be lucky. And, if your luck looks like it’s about to run out, make sure you have a good goalkeeper on your side.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle couldn’t believe they left Ibrox on Christmas Eve without all three points, never mind one. They were the better side throughout the match, yet lost to Rangers thanks to a single goal, inadvertently turned into the back of the net by one of their own, Brad McKay. The right-back was in the wrong place to knee Martyn Waghorn’s cross high into his own goal on 16 minutes. The goal came straight from a chance for Inverness at the other end, as Wes Foderingham clawed back a Lonsana Doumbouya effort just as it looked certain to be creeping over the line.
It was a theme that would run throughout the match. Inverness looked the more threatening side, but on the few occasions they did find the required composure in the final third, Foderingham was on hand to deny them. He repeated his heroics to deny Greg Tansey as the first half ended, and made a spectacular stop to push Alex Fisher’s late strike past the post.
Visiting manager Richie Foran described the English stopper as having “the game of his life”, although, oddly, he wasn’t give the man-of-the-match award by the hosts. That went instead to Clint Hill.
Mark Warburton was a little more reserved, but the Rangers boss still dished out some praise for his stopper, who’s sure to be busy over the next two games with a trip to St Johnstone preceding Hogmanay’s Old Firm derby.
“All credit to Wes. He had to maintain concentration for long periods of the game. He did that and pulled off a couple of very good saves,” said Warburton.
Aside from the performance of his goalkeeper, and another measured display from Hill, there was little for the Rangers support to cheer. There were more than a few occasions when the crowd articulated their agitated incredulity at what they were seeing on the park, as jeers greeted the latest misplaced pass or 50-50 lost in the centre of the park.
There was a lack of urgency and poise, and it was night and day compared with the victory of Hamilton Accies in their previous encounter.
“It was a poor performance,” admitted Warburton. “We were just loose. We were loose in possession, we were loose out of possession. Our shape wasn’t good. We gave it away very cheaply. We didn’t make good decisions, but we got the goal. We missed a couple, but we were just too open. You can’t blame the conditions. It was the same for both teams. You saw a lot of balls going astray and loose touches. It was difficult with a swirling wind. It wasn’t straight down the pitch or across the pitch, but there’s no excuse from that. Not at all.”
Unlike the gruesome showings away against Celtic and Hearts in the league, this time Rangers left with all three points. There’s little doubt they’ve learned how to win ugly over recent matches.
It’s hard to imagine them playing in such a fashion against Celtic and finishing with anything other than a one-sided defeat, or even St Johnstone on Wednesday night for that matter. However, Warburton dismissed any notion that his side are still to find a level of consistency.
“I don’t think that’s fair. They’re human beings. If they’re perfect every week, they’re on a quarter of a million pound a week and playing in the Bernabeu. The fact is we’re human,” said the Rangers manager.
“They have played four games and won four games. Three very good performances, we were sub-par today but they have taken the points against a good team. That’s the message. It’s a huge three points for us.
“You have to take the positives out of the he negatives, and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll train well this week and look forward to another tough test on Wednesday.”