AT THE weekend, Ally McCoist pleaded with the Rangers fans for patience, knowing that he cannot play his chosen team in competitive matches until September because of the lasting effects of the club’s continuing transfer embargo.
Scorers: Rangers - McCulloch (5); Newcastle - Ameobi (90)
This being a friendly, he was able to play what is probably his best XI in the first half, and given the way they coped with this English Premier League side, any reasonable observer would have to conclude that Rangers will romp League One, at least from next month.
New signings Belil Mohsni and Nicky Law were particularly impressive, and it was a superb raking pass out of defence from the former which set up the opening goal after just six minutes.
Mohsni sent Lee Wallace away on the left, and the former Hearts man, looking livelier than ever, cut inside two defenders to place the ball in front of the inrushing Nicky Clark only for Fabricio Coloccini to bundle the striker over.
A clear penalty, and up stepped Lee McCulloch to rasp the ball low past Tim Krul. The Rangers captain seemed to pick up a small injury later and left the field at half-time presumably as a precaution.
Another new signing, Cammy Bell, proved what an asset he might be come September when he pulled off a stunning instinctive save from a fiercely struck volley by Mathieu Debuchy in the 12th minute, the first of many valuable stops.
Newcastle’s pride appeared to be stung and they went forward to seek a goal, almost gaining one when the ever-dangerous Yohan Cabaye shot just wide after 21 minutes, while Bell raced from goal to save bravely at the feet of Papiss Cisse three minutes later.
It was Bell to the rescue again after 29 minutes, pouncing on a squirming shot from Santon deep in his area, before Jon Daly almost finished Wallace’s good work with a shot that was well held by Krul.
With both sides trying to play attacking passng football, there had also been no lack of bite in the tackles for the first 40 minutes, and it was no surprise when Arnold Peralta and Moussa Sisoko indulged in a spot of handbag throwing that would have seen them sent off in a competitive match, referee Steven McLean contenting himself with yellow cards for each.
Hatem Ben Arfa had not been his usual tricky self, but his 35 yarder was only just over.
The Newcastle fans got a bit naughty in the second half, singing “You’re not Rangers any more,” to which the Broomloan Road end replied with “The Cry Was No Surrender” as if to prove they were.
No doubt mindful that his side has to start league business on Saturday without the new signings, the Rangers manager then sent on a raft of substitutes from the youthful ranks from which he must produce a winning blend.
They competed well, and had Andrew Little’s 69th minute shot been a few inches lower, the result would have been clinched.
As it was, Newcastle, who also made numerous changes including the arrival of St Mirren’s League Cup-winning Paul Dummett, had the better of the half, though the Rangers defence held out composedly and United had only a 78th minute Shola Ameobi header that went just wide to show for their efforts.
The visitors kept pressing but Mohsni marshaled the defence well and Bell used feet and fists to keep the ball out at times. Last minute, last ditch defence seemed to have won the game for Rangers, but as the clock showed 90 minutes, a mix-up in the Rangers back line allowed Sammy Ameobi to feed big brother Shola sprinting forward, and not even the heroic Bell could keep out his clever dink-chip shot.
A creditable draw then, but given the array of talent that will have to sit out the rest of the month, McCoist must be wishing the real season didn’t start until September.