Question marks as Rangers are held again

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  • Rangers scorers: Miller 2, Waghorn 84
  • Tavernier 32 (og), McCluskey 82
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A few questions are starting to be asked of Mark Warburton’s Rangers. Over the next fortnight, they need to provide the right answers. Those within the club were most damning of the deficiencies against Morton that made for a third Championship game in five the Ibrox side have failed to win.

A few questions are starting to be asked of Mark Warburton’s Rangers. Over the next fortnight, they need to provide the right answers. Those within the club were most damning of the deficiencies against Morton that made for a third Championship game in five the Ibrox side have failed to win.

Kenny Miller celebrates after opening the scoring for Rangers after only 75 seconds of their match against Morton on Saturday. Picture: SNS

Kenny Miller celebrates after opening the scoring for Rangers after only 75 seconds of their match against Morton on Saturday. Picture: SNS

Yet any criticisms centred solely on the nature of their performance on Saturday. For a growing number, though, it is the nature of their play under Warburton that is making them susceptible to coming unstuck.

Jim Duffy has done a magnificent job in turning the Cappielow side into one of the second tier’s most adept, counter-attacking sides. There are reasons they sit fourth and are six games unbeaten. But Duffy didn’t require to think hard before coming up with an approach for the trip to Ibrox.

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He simply copied what is starting to give teams a bit of joy against a Warburton side that can stray into predictability with their threading-through-the-eye-of-a-needle passing game. Morton, after a shaky start that brought a 75-second headed goal from Kenny Miller, kept Rangers playing in front of them by remaining defensively compact, while using the nip and nous of forwards Denny Johnstone and Stefan McCluskey to hit on the break.

Yet Rangers midfielder Andy Halliday believes Rangers’ version of tiki-taka is the way to prevail against such tactics. And, though he acknowledges that facing third-placed Falkirk away on Saturday and then second-placed Hibernian – who remain three points behind after their weekend draw – represents a challenging double, he is relaxed about the Ibrox club’s trajectory.

Halliday, without naming names, said “individual errors” in a sluggish performance cost his team at the weekend. Morton’s 32nd-minute equaliser was an own goal caused by James Tavernier misjudging a touch back to his keeper. They made it 2-1 eight minutes from normal time after Rob Kiernan slipped up in losing out to McCluskey, who fashioned an impressively composed finish. Within two minutes, Martyn Waghorn had restored parity when he slammed in from eight yards after a sleek move involving Nathan Oduwa and Lee Wallace sliced open the visitors in a fashion that had eluded Warburton’s team for most of the afternoon.

“We stick to our style of play because we think that’s right,” said Halliday. “Waggy [Waghorn] isn’t a target man anyway. We certainly feel if you look at the percentages that we’ll keep the ball more if we play it short so it doesn’t matter if it’s the first minute or the 90th, we’ll try and do the right things and play the way we play.

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“The way teams are playing against us is credit to us if anything. We can’t talk about bringing that fear factor back to Ibrox and then complain when teams do come and play for a point. Morton deserve credit to sticking to their gameplan, forcing us into two mistakes to get the goals and taking a point away from Ibrox which they deserved. But we’ve got two massive games coming up and if we win every game this season then we’ll win the league and that’s the aim. Falkirk and Hibs are our two closest rivals and it’s going to be tough but we believe we’ve got enough quality and if we play like we can then I think we’ll get the job done. We just can’t have lapses in concentration like we did against Morton. We must learn from that.

“Falkirk have gone under the radar a bit because they’ve only lost to Hibs and ourselves, so they’ve picked up a lot of wins.

“We beat them 3-1 at Ibrox but it was 1-1 late on and they could have scored with the chances they had so it will be tough.”

Morton’s Johnstone, a product of the Celtic youth set-up who is on-loan from Birmingham City, concurs with Halliday’s assessment that Rangers will come out on top, but believes that the verve that brought Warburton’s team a 4-0 win at Cappielow a couple of months ago has been lost.

“The general belief in our squad is that Rangers aren’t the team they were when we played them at Cappielow,” he said. “They haven’t been as clinical. They had a couple of chances they might have scored a couple of months ago – it’s as simple as that.

“We had an indication how to stop them playing and frustrate them.

“We knew they wouldn’t put many crosses into the box. They seem to get in wide areas a lot but tend not to put it in and they go square. We tried to keep a good shape and stay in it for as long as we could.”

This Championship title race seems certain to stay live for longer than was considered possible when Rangers won their opening 11 games.