WE SHOULD know by now. It is part of the culture and history of Rangers that this club never says die, and all associated with the Ibrox giants have needed that quality in spades in 2012.
Scorers: Rangers: Aird (90+2)
So having been denied throughout normal time by the fine goalkeeping of Neil Parry behind the tenacious Queen’s Park defence, Rangers won a corner deep in injury time and you almost sensed the denouement coming. Sure enough, the corner on the Rangers’ right wing went long and 17-year-old Canadian Fraser Aird collected the ball out on the left. He cleverly cut in across the front of the penalty box and switched the ball to his right foot, dispatching his accurate shot through the defensive ranks and low past the outstretched left hand of the despairing Parry.
It was a cruel end for the ten men of Queen’s Park, but Rangers were the better team over the piece.
Hampden Park holds a number of world attendance records, and another one was added yesterday when the largest visiting support ever to attend an away fourth tier league match other than a play-off filled two-thirds of the famous old ground.
In this most extraordinary year in Rangers’ history, some of the attendance record claims have been disputed, but that world record is beyond doubt. Nor can anyone question the loyalty of their fans, especially when they are forced to watch their heroes under-achieve as they did yesterday.
Some have questioned their motivation, and others doubted whether the Rangers fans would continue to turn out in numbers once the novelty wore off, but yesterday’s astonishing turnout of nearly 28,000 was compelling evidence that the phenomenon that is Rangers in the Third Division will continue to rewrite the history books.
Queen’s Park, the only amateur side in senior British football, earned what would normally amount to more than two seasons’ worth of gate money in a single afternoon.
“We’ll put the money into youth development,” pledged Queen’s Park’s manager Gardner Spiers.
At first, Rangers were back to their start-of-season habits in away games. That was due in no small part to an inspired performance by the Spiders, who more than matched Rangers at times, particularly in the first half.
With Ian Black back from injury and battling for Rangers, the game soon became a tough midfield contest on rain-sodden turf, with barely a proper chance created.
Black blasted an early effort miles wide while Ian Watt wasted a free kick at the other end before the impressive Barrie McKay beat Paul McGinn and crossed to David Templeton whose shot went just over.
Black was the first player to see a yellow card for a late challenge on David Anderson before Watt joined him in the book for a rash tackle on Templeton. James Brough became the third man booked in the half, again for a foul on Templeton.
That happened after Black struck a speculative effort wide of the post from 25 yards, with the final chance of the half falling to Templeton, Paul Gallacher getting back to clear after the Rangers striker cleverly made space for himself in the box.
Rangers were more positive in the second half, and Lee McCulloch’s chip shot beat Parry but landed on top of the goal.
Parry then made a quite excellent one-handed save from McKay, before Brough fouled Templeton again and referee Willie Collum had no hesitation in showing a second yellow card.
“It didn’t really have an impact,” said Rangers manager Ally McCoist, “but the game has changed to the detriment in terms of players making honest tackles and being punished for them.”
With Brough dismissed, Queen’s Park tightened up, allowing Rangers much greater possession. After Black was taken off following a rash tackle by Anderson, for which he was booked, Rangers went forward in greater numbers, though Parry was comfortable in dealing with shots by Aird and McKay.
The goalkeeper then denied Templeton before substitute Fran Sandaza blew a glorious chance, shooting into the side netting. That came just after Lawrence Shankland missed the proverbial sitter at the other end after good work by young substitute Aidan Connolly, who was later mistakenly booked by referee Collum when Andy Robertson committed the foul.
Shankland then curled a free kick just wide before Rangers piled on the late pressure. When McCulloch headed narrowly over from a corner, it seemed the ten men would survive, but then came Aird’s last-gasp effort, his first for the senior team.
“It’s a dream come true,” said the youngster, “one of the best feelings of my life.”
Neil Parry said: “We played so well for 91 minutes and just at the end we couldn’t hold on long enough and to lose so late on is heartbreaking. The ball just came through a ruck of players and it was by me before I could react. You know with Rangers that they are going to keep going to the final whistle.”
That whistle is now blown on the year for Rangers on the field, and surely nothing will ever match 2012 for what happened off the field for the Ibrox club.
Queen’s Park: Parry, McGinn, Little, Brough, Robertson, Gallacher, Anderson, Keenan, Watt (Connolly 75), Quinn, Shankland (McParland 89).
Rangers: Alexander, Hegarty, Perry, Emilson, Cribari, Wallace, Crawford, Black (Aird 64), Hutton (Sandaza 71), McKay, McCulloch, Templeton.
Referee: W Collum. Attendance: 30,117.