Burnley expose Rangers’ defensive frailties as fitness falls short

James Tavernier attempts to close down Burnleys George Boyd during the Lancashire clubs 3-1 victory over Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday. Picture: SNS Group
James Tavernier attempts to close down Burnleys George Boyd during the Lancashire clubs 3-1 victory over Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday. Picture: SNS Group
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Mark Warburton better hope that footage of his Rangers team’s dismantling by Burnley doesn’t end up being widely circulated among Scottish Premiership clubs.

The Turf Moor side really did a number on their hosts on Saturday. Burnley may be “quality” and contain “£25 million players” – as Warburton was keen to stress afterwards. That makes them of a standing out of keeping with Scottish football. Yet it was a tactical mastery that allowed Sean Dyche’s men to boss Rangers.

Dyche said as much. Warburton’s team play one way; in a 4-3-3 wherein they seek to pass through the lines. Burnley simply pushed on to Rangers – at times keeping three men up – to suffocate the home side’s ambition.

Aided by the pace and alertness of hat-trick snarer Andre Gray, this approach forced the defensive mistakes that Rangers often seem to have in them against better opponents. A situation that, on the evidence of his being caught out by Gray – and catching him in return to concede a fourth-minute penalty – 37-year-old Clint Hill might not be able to resolve. It was no surprise to hear Warburton hardening his attitude over the need to bring in a tenth summer signing. A centre-back is surely priority – with the desire to recruit before Hamilton Accies visit on Saturday for the first top-flight game at Ibrox since May 2012.

“We need one or two more, we’ve said that for a number of weeks, but you’ve got to get the right players in,” said the Rangers manager, pictured. “There are Burnley players rated £25m and we can’t pay that kind of money. It’s a smaller talent pool but we know what we want and if we can get it we’ll make the move. I hope before next Saturday. They are working on it.”

Rangers have a number of players who still need to work on their fitness – which hasn’t been sharpened by their strolls in the Betfred Cup. Niko Kranjcar and Joey Barton both looked short against Burnely, with no player on the pitch coming close to contributing as Gray did with two clinical strikes; adding to his penalty conversion with an exquisite curling drive, before demonstrating the same cold-eyed accuracy when given a glimpse of goal 53 minutes in.

If Rangers are to move up a level from their Championship selves, signings such as Barton and Kranjcar must produce. Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton is convinced his team-mate of last season, voted player of a Championship won by the Lancashire side, will do and admitted he was “a little bit” surprised 32-year-old Barton then decided to forego a return to the English Premier League.

“He has his own reasons,” said the keeper, who stated he “wouldn’t bat an eyelid” about Barton handling the derbies with Celtic. “It is another string to his bow. He has played a lot in the Premier League so perhaps he wanted a new challenge and a longer contract. Joey was incredible for us last season.

“Having not met him before he joined he came with a reputation. From what we have seen it wasn’t right.

“He was incredible on the pitch and he was incredible off the pitch. I can’t speak highly enough of him. Joey was top drawer. We have a tight-knit group and he fitted right into it. He was fantastic on the pitch every game he played and brilliant around the place. I have an awful lot of time for him and still speak to him. I think Rangers have a real asset there.

“He can affect people in a positive way. He led by example for Burnley on the pitch in terms of his work ethic and application. He is someone who takes people with him. I was certainly impressed with his professionalism. We have an incredible culture at our place and he fitted in so well. I think he was really good at getting the best out of people.”