After three promotions in four years, Rangers have covered a lot of ground. And they might have some ground to cover yet in their stated desire to challenge at the top of the top flight.
Dropping two points at home to Hamilton Accies in their first game back, in front of an expectant and initially buoyant home support, was not the plan.
Mark Warburton figured the occasion had got to his players. There was admittedly a lot of emotion in the house prior to kick-off after a long odyssey that began with a 2-2 draw at Peterhead four years ago this week. That day ended with the Ibrox side rescuing a point with a late goal and here Rangers again came from behind to earn a draw, after Ali Crawford’s well-executed first-half opener for Hamilton.
Martyn Waghorn’s equaliser came when there was still plenty of time to go. But Rangers’ efforts to secure a winner were hampered by the striker’s departure with eight minutes left after he pulled up when chasing the ball.
If Ibrox had been in ferment before kick-off then the stadium was plunged into anxious near silence as Waghorn limped off; the fans know his eye for goal will be needed this season. Waburton had committed all three of his substitutes by the time the striker left the field in obvious pain.
An early double substitution after 60 minutes was significant since it had an almost instant impact. Harry Forrester, who replaced the toiling Nico Kranjcar, sent in a cross from which Waghorn side-footed home the equaliser after 62 minutes.
Michael O’Halloran, who came on for Kenny Miller, also helped inject some pace for Rangers. Jordan Rossiter, who replaced Andy Halliday shortly before Waghorn’s unfortunate departure, was Rangers’ other substitute.
But they could not break Accies down a second time. Warburton wondered whether the occasion, and what it signified, had weighed the players down. “Maybe it did, but to be at a club this size you need to get used to full houses, the noises from fans and everything else that comes with it,” said Barrie McKay.
“It’s the pressures you put yourself under as a player when you pull on that jersey.”
The midfielder’s own jersey ended up being ripped after some particularly close attention from Hamilton defenders, a sign of the visitors’ desperation to gain what was a deserved point.