Rangers - 2
Forrester 64, Miller 90
Motherwell - 1
Even on a day when Rangers paraded new £1.8 million signing Joe Garner and put themselves top of the Premiership pile through the sheer force of a will that produced a stoppage-time winner, the Joleon Lescott saga hung over the club. Now it would seem that after all the toing-and-froing between the Ibrox club and Aston Villa over the reasons for Lescott’s move to Scotland collapsing, they are actually both in broad agreement.
This follows a Villa source yesterday clarifying that in a Saturday morning tweet from new Villa owner Dr Tony Xai that “Lescott didn’t feel happy with personal term missed, which the boss promised”, the phrase “personal term” related to a family matter. This matter is believed to be how often the 34-year-old would have been able to head back south to spend time at home as a Rangers player.
On Saturday night Mark Warburton had shot back that it was “absolute nonsense” to say there was a problem with the “personal terms” – note plural – which he said “were all agreed”. He also dismissed earlier talk of an issue with the medical, and said Lescott’s decision not to take up the offer of a two-year contract was down to, eh, a family matter. “The player decided to keep his family in Manchester,” he said. “He’s well settled with three young children, it’s absolute nonsense to say anything other than that.” Turns out that Xai wasn’t attempting to do so, but just chose a curious phrase to say much the same as Warburton did about the aborted deal.
The Ibrox manager was certainly animated in standing his ground. Much more animated, indeed, than his team for long spells of an encounter in which they rarely looked like taking full points, and struggled to break down a Motherwell team comfortable in having their opponents come on to them.
Mark McGhee, in part putting a sheen on a third straight defeat, gushed over his side’s performance and implementation of a spot-on game plan he said, with some merit, only unravelled as they tired in protecting a Scott McDonald-earned early lead. Yet, for all that, Rangers’ spirit certainly proved willing in them scoring twice in the last half hour, through Harry Forrester and, 91-minutes in, Kenny Miller.
Even with seven points from three top-flight games, Rangers are convincing no-one. Not even themselves, judging by Forrester’s honest assessment. “We need to move the ball a lot quicker,” said the scorer, replaced immediately after his 64th minute equaliser. “In the first half it was being moved too slowly and they were able to get back into position. If you let teams get back and behind the ball they are difficult to break down.”
Hamilton, who earned a draw at Ibrox on the opening day, Dundee, that had Rangers hanging on, and Motherwell have all stretched Warburton’s men in this fledgling season. Not one of these three teams is a good bet to make the top six, so the Ibrox men have much tougher tests to come. It was always going to be this way stepping up from the Championship.
“Teams are a lot more organised,” said Forrester. “Last season they worked hard against us and our quality shone through at the end. That’s not always going to be the case. We know what we’ve got in the dressing room and we will always keep going like we did on Saturday. My goal came midway through the second half and then we got the late one.
“A lot of people come to watch us and we would like to put on a show for them. But sometimes it is about grit and determination and never giving up.
“We know what we have in the dressing room and that showed out there. We get down to work and even when our backs are against the wall we come out fighting.”
In need of his fallback option to Lescott, Warburton will now return to Philippe Senderos to give him more options at the centre of a defence. In its present form, clean sheets don’t exactly look as if they will be in plentiful supply.