ALLY McCoist credited a combination of hard work and controlled aggression for making the difference yesterday as Rangers won an away match in the Third Division for the first time.
A superb strike by Dean Shiels gave the Ibrox team an early lead, but they struggled to kill Clyde off until Lee McCulloch added a second ten minutes from time.
The hard-fought 2-0 win puts Rangers back on top of the table, and McCoist suggested that his team were learning to match the fight which their opponents have been putting into games. “If I’m playing against Rangers in SFL3, one of the first questions I would ask is ‘Do they fancy it? Let’s have a look and see if they’re up for the battle’,” the Ibrox manager said.
“The vast majority of the footballing public might think we do have better players than SFL3 but, that said, you’ve got to earn the right to play. If somebody doesn’t want to let you play and is aggressive, you have to combat that. You have to face up to it and match it.
“I do not have a problem at all with the level of competition and aggression that’s been shown towards our team. The wee problem we probably had is we’ve not matched up to it – and we’re maybe doing that now.”
McCoist acknowledged the quality of Shiels’ goal, but went on to explain that he thought more workmanlike virtues were the key for his team. “You can talk about the great opening goal – and it was a great goal – but the main reason we got the result today was because we worked our socks off. The one over-riding factor that should always be there is a desire to work your socks off, and they got their rewards because of that.
“You have to match up against the opposition and let them know that you’re as much up for the competitive side of the game as they are. It’s safe to say that every team we’ll play this season will certainly be up for the game and will be competitive and aggressive, which is absolutely fair enough. We must be equal to that, if not stronger than that.”
Chris Hegarty, for whom it was “a bit of a surprise” to be back in Rangers’ starting XI, agreed with his manager’s analysis. “The squad knows we’ve got to be tight and get in people’s faces, because that’s what this league is all about,” he said. “We’re getting smashed all over the places, and we need to go and do that to teams – be a wee bit more aggressive and obviously try and play a bit more football as well.”
Clyde manager Jim Duffy was rightly pleased with the effort put in by his team, who were hampered by the dismissal midway through the second half of John Neill for a second bookable offence. “It was just a split-second loss of control and I really don’t know why John was getting involved, because it was nothing to do with him,” Duffy said of his player’s push on Dean Shiels after the referee had already blown for a foul by the goalscorer.
“When there’s a little melee, it’s standard practice now that the referee will book everybody involved.
“It was a silly thing and it put the nail in the coffin as far as us having a chance to get a result. From Rangers’ point of view, they’ll be delighted and most people will think they’ll get a head of steam up and should stretch their advantage at the top now.”
Clyde’s Stefan McCluskey added that Neill had apologised for that loss of control. “We were just talking about it in the changing room and if John never got sent off then we would have had a better chance of winning,” he said.
“We were just coming into the game and we were starting to get chances, but John did something stupid. Once he was sent off, they just knocked it about us.
“John’s apologised and he said sorry to everyone. We knew it was stupid. He said he was a wee bit tired, but saying that he ran ten or 15 yards to grab the boy and he didn’t need to do that.”