RANGERS are rampant. Victors in nine consecutive games. Destroying every team in their path. Notching goals like other teams rack up bookings. Playing an expansive, easy-on-the-eye style that leaves you wanting more even after they have bludgeoned any competitive edge out of the game. And the most impressive thing about this team is that they may not yet have reached their peak.
On Saturday they slammed five goals past a shell-shocked Raith Rovers. Usually when one team beats another so comprehensively, especially when the two clubs are in the same division, there is an equal amount of finger-pointing at the losers as praise for the winners. Not this time. Rovers were not at their best, but they were not a 5-0 defeat type of awful.
The hosts were just too good. That is why after the game, instead of having a face like thunder, Ray McKinnon retained a glint of positivity in his eye. He knows their season will not be defined by how they perform at Ibrox. He also knows there is an even bigger margin of defeat waiting for another Scottish Championship side at the hands of a relentless Rangers side that is programmed to attack until the end.
There were still 27 minutes remaining when Martyn Waghorn dispatched his second penalty of the game and Rangers’ fifth goal. Instead of playing the match out and conserving their energy, the hosts continued to pile forward and missed a couple of great chances to extend the margin of victory further. It is exactly how their manager wants them to play and, according to him, there will be no letting up as the season goes on.
“That’s what we’re all about,” insisted Mark Warburton. “We have to be positive. We’re at our worst when we slow the ball down and don’t be positive in possession. The last minute of the game we’ll always be going for more goals. We’ll never take the ball into the corner, ever. We’ll never put the ball into our [row] X for the sake of it, we’ll never ever do that. It’s about being positive and showing good quality.”
Even the Rangers centre-backs buy into such an ethos. Danny Wilson may be tagged as a defender, but on Saturday he spent more time at the halfway line, looking to launch the next attack. It is a style of play the defender is comfortable with from his previous time at Ibrox and last season with Hearts, but this incarnation of the Rangers squad is taking it to a new level and Wilson is more than happy to be a part of it.
“That’s how we want to be. We want to be on the front foot all the time if we possibly can,” said Wilson. “We want to enjoy our football and the fans to enjoy it too and that only happens by putting the ball in the net. We keep going until the very last whistle.”
Part of the relentlessness comes from the enthusiasm of their attacking young players. This could not be more true of on-loan Spurs winger and rainbow-flick enthusiast Nathan Oduwa. Making his first league start, the 19-year-old tormented the Raith Rovers back line and produced two terrific runs which brought a pair of second-half goals.
Rangers, already 2-0 up thanks to first -half strikes by Lee Wallace and James Tavernier, killed the contest when Oduwa picked up the ball on the right, changed direction on his marker and charged into the penalty area. Once there, he played it across for Waghorn. The striker couldn’t get full contact on the ball, but slowed it down enough for Barrie McKay to tap home. Less than 15 minutes later, after Waghorn had extended the lead from the spot, Oduwa thrilled the home crowd once more with an outrageous piece of skill that took two Raith defenders out of the game. This time he looked for goal himself but was wiped out by Lewis Toshney.
Another penalty was awarded and Waghorn made it five. Oduwa had wanted to take the spot-kick himself but had to be content with a standing ovation from a giddy home crowd.
“I’m delighted for Nathan,” his manager added. “Two of the runs in the second half for the goals were outstanding. He knew what he was doing, he picked the ball up in the right areas of the park and showed good quality. He fully deserved the applause he received.”