Rangers manager Ally McCoist hailed the “staggering” achievement of Lee McCulloch after the centre-back grabbed a hat-trick for the second straight game in Saturday’s 5-1 Scottish League One win over Arbroath.
McCoist finally got to unleash six of his summer signings, who had been restricted to bit-part roles until the registration embargo was lifted on 1 September, for the Ibrox encounter.
But, amid all the hype over the long-awaited appearances of the new arrivals, it was an old face who turned the game in the hosts’ favour after an impressive hour by Arbroath.
The spirited visitors opened the scoring three minutes into the second half through a delightful Alan Cook lob before conceding five goals in the last 33 minutes.
Two headed goals by captain McCulloch either side of a superb 30-yard pile-driver into the top corner had McCoist – the club’s record scorer – singing his praises. “It is a staggering feat for Lee,” he said. “And I think scoring a hat-trick from a centre-half position, without even a penalty, is a remarkable achievement.”
Bilel Mohsni and Andy Little were also on target for McCoist’s side. The Rangers manager was not surprised by how hard his new-look side found it to break down Arbroath. “I never said it would be easy throwing six of our summer signings into the game and I thought we started quite well, but then we lost the edge a little,” he said.
“But credit Arbroath, who knocked the ball about well and got in behind us a few times in the first half. After they scored, with a terrific goal, we responded well but I thought the scoreline flattered us a bit.”
Arbroath player-manager Paul Sheerin also felt the final result did not reflect his team’s contribution.
“I thought we did really well with one man up front for 65 minutes until they took the lead,” he said. “The boys worked really hard and I suppose in that respect the scoreline is slightly harsh on their efforts.
“But the third goal, which was an unbelievable strike from
McCulloch, has knocked the stuffing out of us. After that we were forced to change things and that left us open.” Until two weeks ago, McCulloch, who had previously spent most of his career as a striker or a midfielder, had never scored a senior
hat-trick. The former Scotland internationalist was modest when reflecting on his feat.
“I was delighted on a personal level to get another hat-trick and in a different position, but the management know I will play anywhere on the pitch without any problems whatsoever,” he said. “We might have been a bit lucky with the equaliser, and the scoreline flattered us a little, but I was delighted to get another three goals and the second one was something special.
“Although I have had hat-tricks at boys’ club level, those are my first as a senior and never back-to-back so it is a bit surreal to do it. The gaffer has joked that he managed to score three back-to-back hat-tricks for Rangers and put pressure on me for the next game!”