CHARLES Green will not be happy. No sooner had the former chief executive warned Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, that he should be expected to win two trophies this season than the Glasgow club were being bundled out of the Scottish League Cup by Forfar Athletic.
If they don’t play any better than this, they won’t win League One either. Rangers were a goal down to Dick Campbell’s side after nine minutes, spared defeat in the regulation 90 when Fraser Aird nodded a late equaliser and eventually beaten by a Gavin Swankie header in extra time.
Five minutes remained of the added half-hour when the well-travelled striker scored his second goal of the game. Iain Campbell crossed, Swankie glanced it into the far corner and all manner of vitriol spewed out of the Rangers support, who will have to visit Station Park twice more this season.
Campbell said the result was up there with anything he had achieved, but the focus will be on another dark day for Rangers. McCoist later claimed that the absence of his new players explained the setback.
Due to their transfer embargo, which expires on 1 September, Rangers were not permitted to field any of their eight summer acquisitions. While Nicky Law and Jon Daly ignored that requirement last week, by turning out as trialists against Albion Rovers, no such loophole was available to them in the League Cup.
“I’m very, very disappointed, but I’m realistic,” said McCoist. “Eight players that will play for us were
sitting in the stand. We should remember that. The eight players would certainly come in and help some of those younger boys today. I’m full of confidence that we will make the next stage in the league.
“It’s disappointing, but at the same time we had a lot of disappointments last year with the same team so I don’t think we should be getting carried away. It’s obviously a big, big disappointment – let’s not kid ourselves – but it’s the same team that had disappointments last year. We fully, fully expect us, at the turn of September, to be a lot, lot stronger in all areas. It’s going to be a tough month for us. We just have to get through this month and then we’ll certainly be far stronger.”
But yesterday, for the Rangers support that took over this otherwise quiet Angus town, it was more of what they had seen last season, with Lee McCulloch at the back, Ian Black in midfield and Andy Little up front. And the football was painfully similar to that which made a meal of too many matches in the old Third Division.
On a perfect, artificial pitch,
Rangers struggled in the first half to deal with a howling gale that worked in their opponents’ favour. They had plenty of possession, passing and probing around the Forfar box, but almost as soon as their moves broke down, which they invariably did, play was quickly transferred to the other end.
Scott Gallacher, who was on loan to Forfar for two years, did not look comfortable. The young goalkeeper flapped at a couple of crosses and within nine minutes of the start was picking the ball from his net. When he and McCulloch both hesitated to deal with a through ball, Swankie nipped in to lob it expertly under the bar with the outside of his right boot.
That, at least, put an end to the jolly sideshow that had been developing between Marvin Andrews and the Rangers fans. The 37-year-old defender, who spent two years at Ibrox, seemed to be lapping up the cheers that accompanied his early touches.
At one bizarre stage, when he was preparing to deal with a Rangers throw-in, the big Trinidadian happily agreed to give their supporters a wave.
The gestures from behind the goal grew less generous as the first half wore on. They would have been downright hostile had Chris Templeman put Forfar two in front. When Swankie picked him out in the box, the striker’s header sneaked by the post.
Apart from a chance created by David Templeton, which Little turned against the goalkeeper, Rangers were short of ideas, so much so that it was a relief for them to have the wind at their backs after the interval. As if to remind Darren Hill, the Forfar goalkeeper, that it was his turn to feel the heat, Lee McCulloch wasted no time in clattering him on the six-yard line, a challenge for which the Rangers captain was booked.
Hill was up to the task. After much huffing and puffing, Rangers finally managed what looked like a goalbound shot, but when Robbie Crawford lunged at a cross by Chris Hegarty, the goalkeeper brilliantly turned his toepoke over the bar.
Little then spun and blazed over for the visitors, as did Templeton, but with eight minutes left, they got their equaliser. Templeton crossed, Little glanced a header off the crossbar and Aird, a half-time substitute stooped in the six-yard area to nod the loose ball home.