AS WELL as helping take the Ibrox side to within three points of their rivals in second place in the Championship, Rangers interim manager Stuart McCall conceded that yesterday’s win over Hibernian was a timely psychological boost.
McCall knows there is still the prospect of a sixth game against the Easter Road side this season, whoever finishes in second place. With Hearts now confirmed as champions after Rangers’ 2-0 victory over Hibs yesterday, attention falls on the race to secure a Premiership play-off place.
Rangers are currently in third place but have a game in hand over Hibs.
Although Rangers defeated the Easter Road side in a Petrofac Cup tie at the start of the season, they slumped to defeat in each of their subsequent league meetings, trailing by an aggregate score of 9-1.
Yesterday’s win with goals by Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller meant they avoided a league whitewash. It could also be a boost should Rangers meet Hibs again in the play-offs. The result stands as their first win under McCall, who replaced Kenny McDowall earlier this month, and is only Rangers’ second victory in ten games. “If we had come here and got beat today then psychologically it wouldn’t have been good, so this will help,” said McCall. “But we have a long way to go. We want to go into the play-offs with momentum and with a bit of spirit and confidence. Today will help with that.”
McCall was conscious of the need to stop Hibs taking advantage of the open spaces at Easter Road. Understandably in view of the last three scorelines against Rangers, he tightened up the defence by playing three centre-halves but gave full-backs Lee Wallace and Darren McGregor licence to roam.
“We tried to get into certain areas where we could cause them certain problems,” he said. “I tried to emphasise to the lads all week that we ain’t coming here to be lambs to the slaughter. We knew the aggregate was 9-1 against in the previous games so it was about being strong defensively if we could.”
Although he accepted his side had been below par, Stubbs protested angrily about Miller’s decisive goal 11 minutes from the end. He felt Wallace had impeded Paul Hanlon in the run-up. Even McCall admitted that he would have wanted a foul had he been in the Hibs manager’s position. However, referee Willie Collum added just another controversial decision to his ledger this season by allowing play to continue.
“If I were Hibs I’d be claiming for a foul, no doubt,” said McCall. Stubbs later vented his frustration at Collum although he accepted such an outburst was futile and potentially damaging for him given the strict rules concerning criticism of officials. “I’ve been in management a short time,” said Stubbs. “But I was a player a long time. Over the years, that decision would be given 100 per cent of the time. Not 90 per cent. Not 99 per cent. 100 Per cent. But a guy who has an influence over a game decided differently.
“When he sees it back again… well, there’s no point,” he continued. “He’s there to get the big calls right and he got a big call very, very wrong. There was no point speaking to him afterwards. Everyone in the stadium could see it was a foul. We were on top at the time and had Rangers pinned back.”
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