Clyde 0 - 2 Rangers: Shiels and McCulloch hand Rangers first away win
AFTER three draws and a defeat on their travels in the Third Division, Rangers at last claimed three points away from Ibrox to return to the top of the table.
Rangers: D Shiels 17; L McCulloch 80.
Sent off: J Neill (Clyde) second bookable offence
But, after an excellent strike by Dean Shiels had opened the scoring, they toiled to make the victory safe until the final ten minutes, when Lee McCulloch tapped in their second.
That failure to close the game out was in part due to another outbreak of the lethargy which has afflicted them in their away games, but Clyde also made a considerable contribution. They may be third from bottom, but the home team kept their shape and their composure – apart, that is, from the 67th-minute incident in which John Neill was sent off for a wholly avoidable second booking.
Still, if the standard of play provided little for Rangers fans to enthuse about, they were heartened by the return of Andrew Little, who was making his first start in almost two months after being injured on international duty. And although the finishing by the away team was unimpressive, at least chances were created in abundance.
Having said that, it was Clyde who had the first scoring opportunity, when Neill headed wide from a Paul Hay cross. Bryan Gilfillan was also off target with a sidefooted volley from a throw-in, but those incidents warned the Rangers defence that lapses of concentration might be punished.
Steadily, though, the visitors exerted more pressure, and with Ian Black orchestrating play, they began to pose more of a threat to Jamie Barclay’s goal. McCulloch grazed the crossbar from a Little cross, and then Little himself had two attempts, the first of which was saved before he blasted the rebound wide.
Having failed to score with those orthodox efforts, Rangers took the lead with a far harder chance. Ross Perry’s long ball forward from the right was directed on to Shiels by McCulloch, and from the left edge of the penalty area the Northern Irishman curled a perfectly executed shot into the far corner of Barclay’s net.
Despite that setback, Clyde continued to push forward, and one particularly promising passing move was ended only when Kyle Hutton pulled back Bryan Gilfillan, an offence for which the Rangers player was booked. The resultant free-kick was in a promising position inside the D, but Neill wastefully drifted his delivery a couple of feet over the bar.
If that was a decent opportunity for the home team to draw level, the one which was created for Stefan McCluskey not long before half-time can only be described as gilt-edged. Hay initiated the move down the right, and when Gilfillan’s cutback reached McCluskey, the goal was at his mercy. At the very least he should have forced Neil Alexander to pull off a save, but instead he drove the ball across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
On the verge of half-time, Rangers twice came close to doubling their lead, but on each occasion were foiled by Barclay. First a fierce 35-yard shot by Lee Wallace was pushed over, and then from the corner the goalkeeper tipped a McCulloch header on to the bar on its way to safety.
The concession of another goal at that point might have put the game beyond Clyde, but instead they began the second half buoyantly. McCluskey looked sure to score from a Stuart McColm cross, but the keeper arched his body backwards to prevent it going in at the top corner.
That began a period of some 20 minutes during which Clyde looked more composed than their rivals, but their hopes of a fightback were ended when Neill needlessly got himself sent off for a push on Shiels. The goalscorer had just dispossessed Hay but had a free-kick awarded against him for doing so illegally, and that should have been an end to the incident. But instead, Neill, who had been booked for a foul on Black barely ten minutes earlier, reacted angrily, giving the referee little alternative but to show him a second yellow card and end his involvement for the afternoon.
Inevitably, space began to open up for Rangers, and within minutes of the sending-off McCulloch had two chances to wrap up the points. First he leaned back too far and shot over from a pass by Lewis McLeod, and then he found himself in the clear but scuffed his shot wide.
Barrie McKay looked lively when he came on for Shiels, who had been booked for his part in the spat with Neill. But a combination of resolute defending and some unlucky breaks of the ball continued to deny Rangers until, with ten minutes remaining, McCulloch at last put the outcome beyond doubt.
Chris Hegarty’s long, raking ball from the right was about to go out of play beyond the back post when Black got a foot to it and artfully turned it back across goal. McCulloch had spent much of the match looking ill at ease, but he was not about to pass up such a straightforward gift, and tapped in from a yard out with no defenders close to him.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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