Rangers manager Mark Warburton last night branded his team’s second-half collapse at Falkirk as “inexplicable” and admitted he read his players the riot act afterwards.
The Championship leaders suffered their first defeat in 16 matches as they let a 2-0 half-time lead slip and lost 3-2 to second-placed Falkirk who secured a memorable triumph through substitute Bob McHugh’s 92nd-minute winner.
Rangers remain 11 points clear at the top of the table with seven games to play, while Falkirk are now six points ahead of third-placed Hibs who have three games in hand.
“We had a few heated words in the dressing room after the game,” said Warburton. “We stopped doing what we were doing well. We needed to keep on taking care of the ball in the second half but inexplicably we didn’t do that.
“We were 2-0 up and it could and should have been five, six or seven. But the warning signs were there in the second half and our players went from being nine out of tens to being four out of tens.”
Rangers led 2-0 after just nine minutes through goals by Kenny Miller and Barrie McKay and passed up a host of other chances during an impressive and dominant first-half display.
But they were stunned by Falkirk’s remarkable late recovery as Blair Alston and Myles Hippolyte drew the hosts level before McHugh’s dramatic winner.
Falkirk manager Peter Houston lauded the resilience of his players, while also admitting his relief that the game had not been placed out of their reach before the interval.
“To be brutally honest, I was delighted to only be 2-0 down at half-time,” said Houston. “We couldn’t live with Rangers’ pace, power and movement in the first half. They were magnificent.
“They were ripping through us. That’s the best any team has played against Falkirk since I came back to the club. On that type of play, Rangers would beat most of the teams in Scotland.
“We had to tinker with our formation and we made substitutions that worked. I told the players at half-time that 2-0 can be a strange score. If we could score the first goal of the second half, then you never know.
“I would have settled for 2-2 when we got it back to that, but our character has been superb this season and tonight sums that up. The players never settled for 2-2, they wanted the winner and got it.”
Houston believes Falkirk can hold off Hibs to claim second place in the table and a less demanding schedule in the play-offs.
“We are up there on merit and have an opportunity to finish second,” he added. “Our target at the start of the season was to make the play-offs, which we have already achieved.
“Hibs have three games in hand but we have still to play them and we have a better goal difference. Anyone who says we are not in there fighting for second place is talking rubbish. This win keeps the pressure on Hibs who have a backlog of games which I hope catches up with them.”