Brechin 1-2 Rangers: Lee McCulloch gets extra-time winner in Ramsdens Cup
CARLOS Bocanegra, who led Rangers out, stopped briefly, as if taking time to let it all sink in. A veteran of over 100 internationals with the United States, this was another significant, if somewhat surreal, moment in his career.
Scorers: Brechin City - Jackson (43); Rangers - Little (4), McCulloch (102)
It also marked a new beginning for Rangers, who were born again in Brechin yesterday.
The wish of the newco club was to return to playing football. They managed this here, though they also learned that life does not necessarily get any easier. The rain had reached torrential levels by the time Rangers were taken to extra-time by a Brechin side who responded magnificently to the loss of an early goal. Andrew Little claimed the momentous strike for Rangers, but Brechin deserved their equaliser, scored by Andy Jackson just before half-time. A Lee McCulloch header 13 minutes into the first period of extra-time preserved Rangers from the indignity of penalties. But would it have been an indignity? They are a different, re-launched club and these were virgin steps in a lower league competition sponsored by a pawnbroker firm.
One by one the Rangers players emerged from the tunnel at Glebe Park. Having gone head-first over the edge, the newco Ibrox club’s first appointment was in the shadow of a hedge. That was one sight that stopped Bocanegra in his tracks.
At one point in the first half a ball was hoofed out of the park and came to rest on top of the famous feature. It remained there until extra-time.
Despite fears voiced to the contrary, Brechin do have more than one match ball. They also had enough in their ranks to match a hastily reformed Rangers side. Indeed, it was remarkable to think that, for the Ibrox side’s first visit to Brechin in just over 30 years, they should arrive as the poor relations to their Second Division hosts.
Although some will have needed help to identify each player, their shirts bore no names on the back, another reminder that this was now life in the Scottish Football League. In truth, this was a stronger Rangers side than anyone had the right to expect. Their line-up included six internationalists. Ian Black is not yet one of those and he might now have sacrificed the chance of wearing a Scotland shirt. But he, too, was present, having signed a three-year contract on Friday. His last taste of competitive football was as man of the match at the Scottish Cup final in May. He has begun again in the Third Division of his own free will.
Barrie McKay and Lewis MacLeod were the only unfamiliar names to the casual observer. The rest could and have all held their own in the Scottish Premier League, from which Rangers were ejected last month. This is their new station in life. It is one they appeared to accept with good grace, although it has to be recorded that the good burghers of Angus were treated to the sort of offensive songs many feared might again become staples of outings such as these on the road less travelled with Rangers.
The suspicion is that by being reduced to visiting such twilight zones, the Rangers fans believe that nothing is now off-limits. Smoke bombs and flares were other novel additions to a Sunday afternoon in north Angus.
It’s just as well that Brechin had endured intermittent downpours. The leaves of the beech hedge were therefore not quite dry enough to catch light. The razing of a much-loved landmark in Scottish football would not have made a good start to Rangers’ attempts to make new friends in the lower reaches of the game.
McCoist appears sincere in his gratitude to his counterparts in the SFL. He shook the hand of Jim Weir as well as those of the Brechin City manager’s backroom staff when he emerged from the dressing-room, just a few seconds before the game started. This was another moment where photographers spilled on to the pitch as they sought to negotiate the confined space between the pitch and the main stand.
There were so many worthwhile snapshots. The Rangers team bus swung into Glebe Park at just before 1:30pm. Ian Durrant sat in a front seat, though he wasn’t driving. It hasn’t got to that stage – not yet. The assistant manager gave fans the thumbs-up.
Whether the team were ready is another question. McCoist raged about the farcical nature of the situation where, due to the delays in the club being granted a licence from the Scottish Football Association, he had been given fewer than 48 hours’ notice to gather a side together for yesterday. Given the standard of players still at his disposal, it shouldn’t have showed. And yet it did.
Perhaps Rangers were simply acclimatising. Rangers’ first attack as a Third Division side suggested that they were trying hard to fit in with the robust style of play that they will encounter in the weeks, months and possibly years ahead. The attack stemmed from a long punt forward from Kirk Broadfoot and, although it came to nothing, the visiting fans did not have long to wait for the first goal of the new era. Northern Ireland internationalist Andrew Little claimed it after just five minutes, rounding keeper Michael Andrews and placing the ball into an empty net after a through ball from McCulloch.
The Rangers players ran to celebrate with Little at the end of the ground know as the “Ghostie End”, due to the cemetery which runs behind it. The Ibrox side might have returned from the dead, but they still had a game to win here. Brechin should have equalised only four minutes later when
a Jackson cutback was met by Craig
Molloy, whose weaker-than-he-will-have-hoped shot was saved by Neil
Broadfoot was beginning to find his feet and he skipped past two defenders before firing in a shot that was tipped over by Andrews. But even at this level, the Rangers defender is prone to the odd mistake. He misjudged a long punt forward from Jonathan Brown, although Dorin Goian also failed to cover himself in glory, and was muscled off the ball as Jackson wriggled into the box.
The Brechin striker prodded the ball past Alexander and saw it nestle in the net, after striking a post. Rangers struggled to reimpose themselves, but redoubled their efforts in the closing stages of normal time, with Andrews saving well from MacLeod. McCulloch, however, secured his side’s passage into the second round, connecting with a corner from the left from MacLeod.
But the win signified more than that. It meant Rangers are now up and running. A rainbow arced over the ground at the end. Many in the Rangers party, including chairman Malcolm Murray, stopped to take a photograph of the
bucolic scene. There is hope, but there is also a long road ahead.
Brechin: Andrews,McLean,Moyes,McLauchlan,Brown, Ryan Stewart (Jonathan Stewart 82),Brady,Molloy, Carcary (Dalziel 62),McKenna (Fusco 111),Jackson. Subs Not Used: Nelson,Murdoch.
Rangers: Alexander, Goian, Bocanegra, Broadfoot, Wallace, McKay (Naismith 96), Black, Hutton, Macleod, Little (Crawford 111), McCulloch. Subs Not Used: Gallacher,Cole.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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