RANGERS suffered their heaviest domestic defeat in 14 years on Saturday and a worst loss to Hibernian since 1941, but shell-shocked caretaker manager Kenny McDowall has admitted the scoreline could have been far worse than 4-0.
A shambolic Rangers side were put to the sword at Easter Road, as goals by David Gray, Jason Cummings, Scott Robertson and Liam Craig hauled Hibs to within four points of McDowall’s confidence-sapped team. As Rangers lurched to a third successive away defeat, Championship leaders Hearts were able to stretch their lead at the top to 15 points.
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McDowall – now in charge for the remainder of the season – could do nothing to save ragged Rangers as he took over the reins for the first time, days after Ally McCoist was placed on “gardening leave” by the Ibrox board.
The interim manager said his side were just fortunate not to have been hit by an even bigger drubbing, the worst against Hibs since an 8-1 defeat at Easter Road in 1941, and the worst by their Leith opponents in a regular league fixture since they lost 5-0 in 1912.
McDowall told the Rangers website: “The only positive I can take at this moment is that we managed to keep it to four but we’ll analyse the game next week. I’m disappointed for the support who came all this way and we’ve let them down.
“Normally you get a response when there is a change in management but that didn’t happen for us. I can’t take anything away from Hibs, they were the better team and wanted it more than us.
“Any game would do us next. After the result today we need to just play again and get the next match out of the way. Anything would be welcome.”
Rangers’ main task for the season now has to be getting to the play-offs in the best possible shape. While they and Hibs might hope that unbeaten Hearts suffer a major slump, they cannot plan for such an eventuality.
Only four points now separate Rangers and Hibs, so the immediate battle for the Ibrox side has to be to hold on to second place. Queen of the South are only two points further back, and even fifth-placed Falkirk, nine points behind Rangers, could yet prove a threat. As things stand, that is improbable, but the Ibrox club are in desperate need of a stable run of results. They have lost three and drawn one of their last six league outings – Falkirk, by way of comparison, have lost two and won the other four – and, if that form continues, they will not be in second place for long.
If they sort out their financial problems, Rangers may be able to bring in new players next month, but their record of handling fresh recruits is not good. No matter how experienced and able a player is before arriving at Ibrox, once through those doors he starts to decline – or at least that has been the case with the bulk of signings over the last couple of years.
Such are the problems facing McDowall – if, that is, he is given the time to confront them. McCoist’s former assistant gave no sign on Saturday of knowing how to arrest his team’s decline, and striker Kenny Miller appeared equally unsure of how to stop the rot.
“The team has a severe lack of confidence at the moment,” Miller said. “We’re lacking a bit of belief in ourselves and our team-mates. It’s as simple as that. You only need to look at the way we’ve performed over the last few weeks. Even when we’ve been winning games it’s not been a level of performance we’ve been used to at this club.
“For us it’s just about finding a way to start performing better and win games. I don’t think we can look much further than next week,” he continued – Rangers are at home to Dumbarton on Saturday.
“I’m getting a bit tired of saying that, but we can’t take anything more than a game at time just now.
“We want to be playing better football and scoring goals. Of course, long-term is that we get promoted but, just now, it’s important for us to find a way to start winning games again.
“Obviously it’s been another tough week. When you lose your manager it throws things into turmoil, but Kenny has taken over and tried to keep it as normal as possible.
“We were prepared, but it was just another one of these days when we just weren’t good enough – collectively and individually.”
No matter the failings of individual players, the real problem at Rangers is a collective one. The rot at the heart of the club remains and it is hard to see how McDowall can turn things round on the field while the present board and their policies remain in place.
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