YOU would need a mug with a sizeable dollop of tea leaves to know quite how to read events at Ibrox today.
Scorers: Rangers – Miller (2), Waghorn (84); Morton – Tavernier (31, og) McCluskey (82)
Rangers dropped their first points at home this season, yet retained their three-point advantage over Hibs. Only after a topsy-turvy closing 10 minutes in Govan and Leith, though. A period when Mark Warburton’s men had their Championship lead cut to one point as Stefan McCluskey put Morton 2-1 up, then found themselves four ahead after an immediate equaliser from Martyn Waghorn was followed by Falkirk taking the lead at Easter Road…before an equaliser from Alan Stubbs men – by then numbering nine – at the finish meant it was as you were at the top of the second tier.
However, the fact is that Rangers were a goal up inside 75 seconds, with Kenny Miller heading in a free-kick from Andy Halliday. The other salient fact is that they only went in 1-1 at the interval because James Tavernier knocked the ball past his own keeper Wes Foderingham when attempting to knee the ball to him after the impressive Denny Johnstone had whipped a cross over from the right. These elements, and many more it appeared. made yesterday’s confrontation an accursed one for Warburton. The 53-year-old refused to consider the scoreline in the context of his team’s title race. He merely moaned in microcosm about the mishaps against a Morton side that mustered a mightily impressive effort in their first visit to Ibrox for two decades. And my did he moan.
“We were well below par today and we didn’t deserve to win. There was a lack of tempo and lack of urgency and it shouldn’t take us going 2-1 down to get a reaction. There is no doom and gloom and we won’t feel sorry for ourselves. We spoke in the dressing room after the game and we got a few points across. The players listened and took them all on board.
“We were sloppy in our movement but I can’t fault their character. It is tight at the top and we are only three points clear [but] there was no harm done in the sense of the league.”
Goalscorer Waghorn also conceded Rangers’ next two encounters, away to second-placed Falkirk and at home to Hibs, makes for a telling fortnight. It is perhaps telling that Warburton’s men have only two wins from five Championship outings.
An open, engrossing encounter yesterday had visiting manager Jim Duffy fearing a lop-sided scoreline that “could be anything” after his side committed the cardinal sin of conceding instantaneously. Yet, with centre-backs Lee Kilday and Thomas O’Ware immense and the best chances of the second period coming when Bobby Barr poked the ball wide after racing through on goal and Johnstone drawing a save from Foderingham, Duffy had a moment when he dared to think the day might give him everything.
That came eight minutes from time when Stefan McCluskey nicked the ball from Rob Kiernan and darted forward before producing a fine composed finish to curl the ball in at the far post. after his side took the lead eight minutes from time. He was quickly disabused of any notion that a win was on the cards, though, for within 90 seconds Nathan Oduwa wriggled forward and then slipped the ball left to Lee Wallace to sweep across the box for Waghorn to slam in.
“You get greedy as a manager and as players and when it was 2-1 so late, you are hoping you can see it out but they scored soon after and it wasn’t to be. I have to give my players a lot of credit” said Duffy, after his team demonstrated precisely why they sit fourth in the table.
“After the first goal I was just hoping they could see out the next ten minutes or so and calm themselves down. That’s exactly what they did and we manage to see it out. We started to pass the ball well and it wasn’t just counter-attack. I thought we played and I thought we competed well.
“Rangers dominated possession, which you would expect, but we tested Foderingham and created a few chances. Not too many teams will come away from Ibrox with anything so we are delighted with the point.”
The day began with an impeccably observed minute’s silence to former Rangers player Arnold Peralta, who was brutally gunned down in a targeted killing in his Honduran home city La Ceiba on Thursday evening. Warburton believed the tribute was warranted for the 26-year-old, who departed the Ibrox club in January 2015. “Obviously, I never knew him, but I was aware of him and Jim Stewart knew him. It’s difficult to comprehend what happened to him at such a young age,” he said. “We don’t know the circumstances of what happened, but the boys all recognised the importance of having the minute’s silence for him.”