IT TOOK all of 37 minutes, but finally they arrived. The chants of Super Ally that then struck up weren’t very voluble. They didn’t emanate from many making up the lowest crowd for a league game at Ibrox in 28 years. Worst of all, though, they came from the tiny knot of Cowdenbeath fans.
On the back of that cataclysmic collapse that condemned Rangers to a 3-2 Petrofac Training Cup semi-final loss at Alloa on Wednesday, judgment was, sort of, reserved from the home supporters on the status of their beleaguered manager Ally McCoist.
In the course of a laboured 90 minutes that at least – and at most – delivered a win, the Rangers faithful could neither find the motivation to back him, nor the motivation to barrack him.
Indifference can sometimes feel like the most scathing of all commentaries, and that was once again detectable at the final whistle.
As it sounded there was low moaning, verging on growling. It could be read as the supporters’ cry for help. They follow a club whose board they have no faith in, whose manager they have little or no faith in, and whose team they have waning faith in, a club where the board do not appear to want the manager, but persist with him because sacking him is financially problematic when they seem constantly teetering on the brink of insolvency.
Rangers, who remain nine points behind a Hearts side who have blitzed through the Championship campaign as they were supposed to do, are a mess from top to bottom.
It was either all front or a state of mind to be admired that McCoist could come into the press room last night betraying few signs of burdens that must be bearing down on him.
There was some internet rot that in the ninth minute yesterday – chosen because McCoist was the club’s legendary No.9 – there would be a chant for Ally to get to… And, at the same time, there would be counter-choruses, as it were, of Super Ally.
All this was entitled to leave the Ibrox manager feeling apprehensive about what awaited him in his football home for more than two decades.
Except for one minor detail. “I promise I didn’t know anything about that. I genuinely did not know,” he said. “One of the boys said after the game there had been some chat. I don’t go on internet forums.”
Just as well, of course. And he shouldn’t change those habits any time soon.
Rightfully stating that his team deserved to win, he had an individual take about how yesterday’s victory – only a second in five games – was achieved. Aside from the moment when Dean Shiels fired in a 57th minute shot that Nat Wedderburn, pictured right, diverted past his own keeper, the football was muffled with mundanity.
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
Shiels did also smack the upright early in the first period, and Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd and Jon Daly might have converted opportunities, but the supporters didn’t grumble just for the sake of it.
“The most important thing was to win the game. We weren’t brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but we got a great reaction and the really pleasing thing is that the boys keep attempting to do the right things,” McCoist said. “They keep showing up for each other and keep working for each other and when you do that you’ve got a chance. I don’t think anyone could say we didn’t deserve to win the game, but a lack of clinical finishing made it a rather sweaty final ten minutes.
“It’s understandable there’s a nervousness. Contrary to what a lot of people think, it’s not an easy place to play when things aren’t going well.
“There were nerves knocking about but you must attempt to do the right things. It doesn’t matter if there’s 1,000 or 50,000 because the job is still the same. The players have got a responsibility to go out and do their jobs.
“I’d much rather there was 50,000 every week but it’s not an excuse – the focus is the same.
“I just wanted to win the game and bounce back from the result on Wednesday and get three points and we did and I’m pleased at the outcome.
“I could have been happier if we’d scored more goals and enjoyed it a lot more in the last 15, 20 minutes. It’s another clean sheet and three points in the pursuit of Hearts.”
Oddly, McCoist retained the players who performed so pathetically in the closing 20 minutes against Alloa. He only did so after withdrawing Lee Wallace at 2pm because of “a personal and private issue, non-football related”, yet he saw merit in retaining the same back four that shipped in three late goals to sink yet another cup (mis) adventure on the, far from, good ship McCoist.
“I felt if we went with the same back four there was pressure on them to perform after a poor performance,” said the Rangers manager.
“We sat and watched the Alloa goals again and it was painful,” he said. “But it’s something you’ve got to do. I watched it on Thursday and I watched it with the boys on Friday morning. I’ve sat through it twice… I’m a bit of a masochist.
“We just felt there was a bit of pressure on them because you can’t afford to make those mistakes again and thankfully they kept a clean sheet.”
McCoist’s continued presence at Ibrox perhaps is evidence of his masochism.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS