THEY can change their board, they can change their manager, but until they change their team – which can’t happen before the summer – Rangers seem destined to be mired in misery, and mired in the Championship. Ultimately, despite a bright, lead-securing opening spell, there was no discernible Stuart McCall effect yesterday.
Scorers: Rangers - Vuckic 9; Livingston - Sekajja 45
Not in the overall performance, which was typically ragged. Nor in the numbers who dared put themselves through watching it, with the 35,066 attendance only 48 up on the figure from Kenny McDowall’s last outing, in midweek.
It can feel unfair simply to concentrate on the myriad deficiencies of the Ibrox side when there is always an opposing team that has succeeded in exploiting them. Yet, there has to be a reason why Livingston, who had lost their previous five games and boast only two wins from 25 matches, became the latest team to look good against the Ibrox men. And that is Rangers’ rancidness.
Before kick-off McCall was cheered to the rafters for his first game in charge after becoming the 14th manager of the club on Thursday. At full-time his players were booed from the rafters after posting a fourth consecutive draw. The outcome now leaves them seven points adrift of second placed Hibernian, who have played two games more. No-one seems to count anymore, but Rangers are now 24 points behind league leaders Hearts.
McCall, while stressing he was “not defeatist”, admitted promotion was an “uphill task”. Even reaching the play-offs could become problematic if a win is not registered at home to Alloa on Tuesday and Hibs continue their hoodoo over their Ibrox rivals in Leith next Sunday. Queen of the South and Falkirk are suddenly within a couple of wins of a Rangers side which has lost the art of claiming victories.
They have only one from their past eight games, and only six from 18 attempts. Kenny Miller said it would be “the biggest capitulation ever” if Rangers failed even to make the play-offs.
Both McCall and Miller felt there was a positive reaction in the initial quarter of an hour when the veteran claimed Rangers had a tempo and cutting edge they have “lacked all season”. Haris Vuckic capped that encouraging spell by planting an imperious shot in the right-hand corner of Darren Jamieson’s net after dancing forward up the left channel. The discouragement came with the Slovenian later hobbling off with a twisted knee McCall said will keep him out for a “few weeks”.
On going behind it looked then that Livingston might be in for a long afternoon when going behind. Instead, the Championship bottom club started to play and in the process leave their hosts looking bizarrely, McCall noted – “heavy legged”. It is a confidence thing, said the new manager, who bemoaned the failure to claim a win “to get everyone going”.
A 45th-minute equaliser, which resulted from Ibra Sekajja forcing in from close range after a Danny Mullen header that struck the foot of the post rebounded into his path, prevented that. As did a brilliant one-handed stop late on from Jamieson.
Yet, Livingston manager Mark Burchill’s assessment told just what unimaginable depths Rangers are plumbing. There was an “ouch” factor in his claim that Scott Pittman, who was playing junior football until recently, “looked better than most of the Rangers players out there.”
Burchill added: “I sensed Rangers were there for the taking today, definitely. We’re really disappointed in that dressing-room and it’s not often you can say that after a draw at Ibrox. I’m not happy with a point. I think we deserved all three points. ”
McCall added: “It’s difficult, there’s no doubt about that. You saw at the end a little frustration and understandably so but there’s no magic wand.
“We just have to get on with it and do better than we have today.”
What no-one is sure is whether they can. Their one comfort is that they really, genuinely, cannot get much worse.
Rangers: Robinson; Faure (Zaliukas 53), McGregor, McCulloch, Wallace; Vuckic (Templeton 72), Hutton, Law, Walsh; Miller (Boyd 81), Clark. Subs: Simonsen, Smith, Shiels, Murdoch.
Livingston: Jamieson; Fordyce, Gallagher, Sives, Talbot; Kyle Jacobs, Cole; Keaghan Jacobs, Pittman (McKenna 90), Mullen (Hippolyte 68); Sekajja (White 80). Subs: Walker, O’Brien, Beaumont, Glen.
Referee: Andrew Dallas. Attendance: 35,066
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