IF Rangers are looking for positives from a 1-1 draw at Livingston, it is that this result may act as a wake-up call for the young side and a lesson not to underestimate the rest of the teams in the Ladbrokes Championship.
This was the first match in which they’ve dropped points this season to a team from outside Leith, and a result that brings Hibs level at the top of the league.
The visitors enjoyed the majority of possession, but there was a lack of cutting edge in the final third and they were punished for a very lacklustre beginning to the second half, when Miles Hippolyte produced a terrific finish which earned the home side a confidence-boosting draw.
Not that Livingston lacked any self-belief. The hosts were organised, disciplined and fought harder than their opponents to earn a point. The result will come as a surprise to some, but Livingston manager Mark Burchill insisted on his side’s quality, demonstrated by recent performances, and alluded to a sense of disrespect soon to be felt by the squad.
“The thing I laugh at... is that I can’t wait to read over the next few days about how poor Rangers were, that’s what I can’t wait for,” said a sarcastic Burchill. “Hibs were terrible the other night [when Livingston lost 2-1] and that’s the reason we got close. And Rangers were terrible today and that’s how we got close.”
Burchill may have a point, but with the exception of Hibs every team in the second tier is going to struggle mightily against Rangers if the league leaders are on their game. That said, there’s no doubt the home side played very well, limiting the number of clear-cut Rangers chances over the 90 minutes.
In fact, up until the opening goal there wasn’t much to separate the teams. Rangers had the majority of possession, while the hosts looked lively on the counter attack. In fact, the only real chance of the game prior to Jason Holt’s opener came from home striker Jordan White after he forced Wes Foderingham into a save low down.
Then came two minutes which initially suggested this wasn’t going to be Livingston’s day. Barrie McKay’s intended pass for Martyn Waghorn was deflected from its original path by a covering Ben Gordon. Unfortunately for the Livingston defender he succeeded only in teeing it up perfectly for Holt to plant a low finish beyond Marc McCallum.
A determined Livingston refused to wallow in self-pity, however, going straight up the other end where Jordyn Sheerin turned excellently inside the area and fired for goal. The ball cannoned off the arm of Rob Kiernan, deflecting it wide for a corner. Referee George Salmond deemed it not to be an infringement, though the hosts were insistent a penalty should have been awarded.
There then followed a period in the match where Livingston were at their weakest and fortunate to keep the score at 1-0. McKay curled an effort off the outside of the post and Waghorn shot another good chance into the side-netting. Although, despite the pressure, Burchill’s side should have been level at the break when Jordan White missed a gilt-edged chance, heading straight at Foderingham in stoppage time.
Prior to the game, Rangers had won every single match this season in which they’d scored first. Maybe such a statistic lulled the visitors into a false sense of security, because there was a noticeable lack of urgency after the restart, which was punished six minutes in.
There didn’t appear to be much danger when Sheerin attempted a speculative shot 25 yards from goal, but the deflection took the ball into the path of Hippolyte, who was given time to get his balance right and curl a shot past Foderingham into the far corner.
Even the goal didn’t immediately wake Rangers from their slumber, though a stinging Andy Halliday drive, tipped around the post by McCallum, eventually shook them into life. There then followed 30 minutes where Rangers camped out in the opposing half and battered at the defensive wall.
Substitute Kenny Miller forced an excellent save from McCallum after hammering McKay’s cross towards goal. Waghorn then had an opportunity deflected over. From the resultant corner James Tavernier offered short before sending a deep cross that found McKay galloping in alone at the back post. Incredibly, the winger completely missed the ball and it trundled away to safety.
Livingston breaks were few and far between but they mustered together an opening with nine minutes remaining. White charged up the park before playing in Gary Glen. The striker hit the deck before the ball could reach him, claiming to have been clipped by Lee Wallace inside the area.
Rangers had a claim of their own with time ticking away after Waghorn went down under the attentions of Kieran Gibbons, though Salmond deemed it to be a dive and booked the player, with few complaints from the visitors.