ON A day of protests by Rangers supporters at Ibrox, it was one of the club’s players who produced the biggest demonstration of the lot. David Templeton, a half-time substitute on Saturday, made quite a case for more frequent inclusions in the starting line-up with a goal and a performance that dug the home side out of an almighty hole.
Rangers 4-2 Queen of the South
Scorers: Rangers - Zaliukas (27), Templeton (46), Mohsni (64), Miller (86); Queen of the South - Reilly (22), Russell (36)
Rangers were 2-1 down at the interval thanks to a first half in which they were as slack and shapeless at the back as Queen of the South were dangerous going forward. Only their supporters were co-ordinated, organising a show of red cards in response to fears that the club could be heading for a second period in administration.
After Jim McIntyre’s injury-hit side had twice taken the lead, Rangers were jeered off the pitch at half-time, prompting Ally McCoist to take urgent action. Convinced that they would be better off without Arnold Peralta and the slipshod Marius Zaliukas, the manager replaced them with Ian Black and Templeton, who wasted no time in seizing the opportunity.
Within a minute of his arrival, Templeton had accepted a pass from Kris Boyd, cut inside the full-back – who slipped at the vital moment – and swept a majestic left-foot shot between the goalkeeper and his right-hand post. It was the kind of goal, said McCoist, that few players in Scotland were capable of.
Thereafter, Templeton gave Rangers another dimension, inspiring them to take ownership of a game that had threatened to get away from them.
Bilel Mohsni headed them in front and, when Templeton went off with a twisted ankle five minutes from the end, Kenny Miller came on to score his first goal since rejoining the club in the summer. Lee McCulloch’s long ball was flicked on by Boyd, and the veteran striker’s shot went in off the goalkeeper’s hand.
Miller was asked later what had been the difference in the second half. “We got Temps the ball,” said Miller. “That’s what he can do. He can go right, he can go left, inside, outside, and he’s got a fantastic shot with both feet. That set the tone for the second half. It probably put them on a little bit of a downer. There’s no doubt Jim was in there at half-time saying, ‘Listen, let’s get through to 65, 70 minutes and try to frustrate them’, but that goal in 46, 47 minutes was always going to give us a lift and from then on we went from strength to strength.”
The problem for Templeton is that he is earning himself a reputation as an impact player. He has appeared in six games for Rangers this season, only three from the start, and never for a full 90 minutes. The theory is that he plays better as a substitute than he does from the start. “Nobody wants to come off the bench,” Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of players of that ilk in the squad, players who can come on and influence a game. Ask any one of them, and they will tell you they would rather be in the starting 11.”
Rangers were crying out for them during a first half in which Queen of the South played some tidy football and ruthlessly exploited yawning gaps in their opponents’ back four. First, Danny Carmichael burst through the space and squared to Gavin Reilly, who converted from the edge of the box. Then Reilly turned Zaliukas with embarrassing ease before teeing up Iain Russell, who calmly found the bottom corner.
Between those goals was an equaliser by Zaliukas. When Darren McGregor’s effort broke loose off Zander Clark’s legs, the former Hearts defender looped his header under the crossbar. Mohsni’s attempt to help it over the line served to distract the recovering goalkeeper.
All in all, there was enough evidence here to suggest that Rangers have work to do. They got the job done, as they so often have during this traumatic climb through the divisions, but Hearts have looked altogether more convincing in setting the Championship pace.
Miller believes Rangers will win the title, but only if they pull their weight. “We never thought it would be a gimme,” said Miller. “Yes, we’re favourites – and, I think, rightly so. I’ve always said, come May, we’ll win the league. There’s no doubt about it. But Hearts, Hibs, and Queen of the South today, have shown that nobody is going to make it easy for us. We’re not going to be handed it.
“We’ll have to go and earn it, work for it, play better. And we will get better as the season goes on. It’s going to be a long season, but with the quality we have in that dressing room, we firmly believe that, come May, we’ll be at the top.”