In the second of our three takeaways from the Scottish football weekend, Craig Fowler looks at a couple of factors that allowed Rangers to get their swagger back against St Mirren
*This was written prior to Rangers’ match with Dumbarton.*
It’s actually a compliment to Mark Warburton and his side that people were calling their recent form a ‘rough patch’.
Suggesting Rangers have dropped off slightly isn’t an observation without foundation, however. They’ve found it difficult to continue the manner in which they blew away teams so easily earlier in the campaign, even if, for the most part, they’ve still managed to get the win.
On Saturday, at home to St Mirren in the Petrofac Training Cup semi-final, they did both. It was reminiscent of a standard Rangers performance from August and September. Not only did they win by four clear goals, they also missed a number of good chances and left the opposition thanking their lucky stars it wasn’t an even more embarrassing hiding.
Back into the team came Kenny Miller in place of Nathan Oduwa, as this writer expected would happen in last week’s Four Takeaways. While Martyn Waghorn isn’t quite as dangerous when he’s forced out onto the right wing in Rangers’ 4-1-4-1, having the pair of them on the park gives the team two lethal goal threats. Oduwa is a talented player, but he’s still learning when to use his tricks for the better of the team or just to entertain for the sake of doing so. Miller, while not as aesthetically pleasing as the Tottenham loanee, is more effective in the side.
It also gives Rangers more balance to the attack. Against Livingston, with Barrie McKay on the other side, Rangers played with two orthodox wingers who hugged the touch-line. Warburton’s team are at their most lethal when there’s multiple options crashing into the penalty area. With Waghorn and Miller both doing so, along with Jason Holt and the full-backs charging in from deep, St Mirren found it impossible to cover everyone. Besides, without a traditional target man, and Warburton having no intention of introducing one, there isn’t a need to have two players out wide looking to sling balls into the penalty area.
Another reason for Rangers’ improvement was the performance of Andy Halliday, who arguably played his best game since the team suffered their first defeat this season at the hands of St Johnstone.
Halliday is not a natural defensive midfielder and fans have been wanting the club to bring someone else into the role. However, for the meantime, Warburton is happy with the attacker in the deeper position. While he can struggle defensively on occasion – he actually did a fine job against St Mirren, winning most of his 50/50s and covering for those ahead of him – his skill on the football helps the side to dominate possession in a manner that few teams can.
If Halliday can get back to form on a consistent basis then he may persuade his manager, who recently said the centre of midfield was a position they were looking to strengthen, to hold off in the January transfer window, while he continues to learn and development in this new role.