IAN Black says Rangers have no excuses for the 1-1 draw with Elgin City which cost them their 100 per cent Ibrox record in the Irn-Bru Third Division.
Rangers were aiming for their 12th successive win in Saturday’s clash and looked set to hold on for the points in front of another bumper crowd thanks to an early opener from Lewis Macleod.
However, the visitors were able to snatch a late leveller courtesy of goalkeeper Neil Alexander’s own-goal blunder from an Elgin free-kick.
Rangers remain 17 points clear at the summit, but former Hearts midfielder Black knows their performance was not up to scratch as they edge closer to wrapping up the title.
He said: “It was very frustrating, having created the chances that we did in the first half. Their goalkeeper had a good game, but we can’t make excuses.
“We know we are supposed to be concentrating for the full 90 minutes and we went to sleep. They got the chance and they punished us.”
Elgin’s draw was all the more impressive considering they played the entire second half with ten men following Paul Harkins dismissal for a challenge on Black late in the first half.
Black added: “You think, when they go down to ten men, that we can kick on. We played nice football, but we never really played penetrating passes and tried to kill them off.”
It was a foul on Black which led to Harkins’ ordering-off four minutes from half-time. The Elgin player was shown a straight red card for the challenge, a decision which his manager and Rangers boss Ally McCoist felt was harsh.
Asked for his own view of the incident, Black said: “I was lying on the floor so I don’t know if it was bad or not, but the referee obviously thought that it was. He caught my ankle and burst the boot, so he did catch me, but I don’t know if he was lunging or jumped in with two feet.”
Rangers were a goal ahead at that stage, thanks to a ninth-minute opener from Macleod. Lee McCulloch won the ball in the middle of the park before releasing Macleod into the box and he coolly dispatched a low shot past Joe Malin into the back of the net.
Elgin almost levelled a minute later when a powerful drive from Daniel Moore forced a decent save from Alexander.
Duff was fortunate to escape with a caution when he picked up the first booking after 22 minutes for a poor challenge on former Hearts winger David Templeton.
Templeton recovered from the foul to deliver a cheeky back-heel pass into the path of Lee Wallace, but the defender’s low cross was unable to find McCulloch in front of goal.
Andy Little then picked out Templeton in the box and the winger tried to curl past Malin, but the Elgin goalkeeper was able to gather comfortably. Following Harkins’ sending-off, McCulloch should have claimed Rangers’ second of the day just before the break when he collected Lee Wallace’s cross from the left six yards out, but a poor finish allowed Malin to block easily.
Rangers dominated possession after the restart, but struggled to carve out much in the way of clear chances, although Templeton was not too far away with a volley from the edge of the area that fell just over the crossbar.
Barrie McKay was thrown into the action after an hour, replacing goal-scorer Macleod, and almost immediately he called Malin into action with a shot straight at the goalkeeper. Malin came to the rescue again, this time producing a superb save to stop Little’s point-blank header.
Kyle Hutton made way for Dean Shiels with 20 minutes to go and the Northern Irishman quickly tried his luck with a volley that was just off-target.
Rangers made another change five minutes later, when Ross Perry was forced out of the action following a clash of heads, and was replaced by fellow defender Sebastien Faure. The home side were still chasing an elusive second goal and the honours almost went to Templeton, who produced a ferocious shot that flashed across the face of goal and past the upright.
Instead, a dreadful error from Alexander gifted Elgin the equaliser with three minutes to go. Moore’s free-kick was met by Stewart Leslie who directed a header at goal, which initially appeared to be blocked by the goalkeeper before he fumbled the ball over the line.
Black said the rest of the players will help ensure Alexander recovers from the mistake that gifted Elgin a share of the points. He said: “He’s disappointed, but we will pick him up. It’s a team game and we are all in it together. The big man will be fine.”
Meanwhile, Ross Perry’s facial knock may not be as bad as first feared.
Perry was forced out of the action following a clash of heads and McCoist said he thought the defender may have suffered a broken nose.
However, Perry said on Twitter on Saturday night: “I’ve prob looked better but hopefully just bad swelling. Nothing feels broken.”