IT WAS quite a picture watching the Rangers fans at Recreation Park on Saturday.
The snow blew around, the Ochils stood frozen in the background, and the faithful tribe shuffled in and shuffled out, not exactly exhilarated, but witnesses yet again to the cause. There is a certain downtrodden nobility in it all.
The Ibrox hordes pine for their benighted club to be at the top of the Scottish game, but this is the necessary journey. Around 2,000 of them trooped into Alloa on a freezing afternoon to watch a game on a spongy plastic pitch which delivered three points via unsophisticated hard graft. Scarcely a song was heard, scarcely a roar of approval noted.
It left Rangers still trailing Hearts by 13 points in the Championship, but for many of these visiting fans that is now a secondary issue. Primarily, they want to know who is next to own and control their club. And they want to know if the various figures gadding around Ibrox are kosher or, based on bitter recent experience, men of further disrepute.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
The received wisdom is that sometime this week the so-called Three Bears – Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor – will be able to clarify their agreement with the current board and enhance their imminent influence at Ibrox. Dave King, the would-be saviour based in South Africa, should not be far from the agreement, either. This is what many Rangers fans want to happen, but with figures like Mike Ashley and the US-based Robert Sarver also hovering, who knows what the next few days will bring?
It is becoming gruelling for Rangers and the club’s supporters, and little on the pitch is relieving the agitation. In years to come they will look back on these Rangers line-ups from this period and be aghast at the state of everything. Liam Buchanan, the Alloa striker, afterwards cited the time-honoured line about Rangers “still having quality players” but this is a polite piece of flattery. It’s not just off the pitch that Rangers are messy and lumbering.
A Nicky Law goal early in the first half could have settled Rangers – but it didn’t. Instead we were treated to another toiling, industrious display by the stricken giant as it attempts to claw its way into the top flight. Alloa, who had beaten Rangers and twice drawn in their last three meetings, once more made much of the running and creating. Kenny Miller struck a post for Rangers – with only the goalkeeper to beat, as only he can – but the rest of it was instantly forgettable.
It proved another frustrating day for Barry Smith and his players. Since their stunning 3-2 defeat of Rangers in the Petrofac Training Cup in early December their form has slumped, and this made it five losses and one draw since then. Poor Smith, not so long ago quoted for the St Mirren job, is now fire-fighting at the foot of the table.
Kenny McDowall, whom next to no-one views as a long-term Rangers manager, wears a certain haunted look these days – and who can blame him? While the mad politics of Ibrox swirls on around him, McDowall gamely and grimly gets on with the task. There is little that looks inspiring about his team but he clasps at any positives.
“We knew, in these conditions, this was going to be a real difficult day for us,” said the Rangers interim manager. “I’d have taken a 1-0 before the game. The teams in this league don’t know when they’re beaten – they just keep playing away. Alloa made it really difficult for us.”
They certainly did, and might have clinched a deserved equaliser had Buchanan not snatched at a late chance and screwed his shot wide. “We can take confidence from the way we played, and from creating such a number of chances against a team as good as that,” said Buchanan. “We felt, from the way we played, that we were in with a shout of getting a goal, and that we would have deserved it. I think we played as well as we have done recently against Rangers but, this time, we’ve taken nothing from the game.”
Smith evidently envisages some hard winter weeks ahead for himself and his players. “I’m frustrated that we took nothing from this game, but it’s been the same story for us these past few weeks,” he said.
“We really need to start picking up points, given the performances we are putting in.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS