Portsmouth 2 - 0 Rangers: Brittle Rangers exposed
THE BRITTLE nature of Walter Smith's squad was fully exposed as an under-strength Rangers produced their worst display of pre-season to be outclassed by Portsmouth.
Results this summer have been encouraging, but without four key players (with Scotland ahead of the match in Norway) and the injured Nacho Novo, Smith's side were as porous at the back as they were toothless in attack. It was only by virtue of some lacklustre Portsmouth finishing and Allan McGregor, that the margin of defeat was only two.
Pompey striker Frederic Piquionne, who spent the entirety of the 76 minutes he was on the field on his own up front, ran Madjid Bougherra and David Weir ragged before plundering a brace on his debut.
Smith admits there is little finance available for new additions and the Ibrox door thus far has only seen departures but while Falkirk on Saturday should not prove too much of a test it is the prospect of a potentially squad-sapping Champions League group stage beginning in September that must cause Gers' fans most concern.
Robbed of Scotland squad quartet Kenny Miller, Neil Alexander, Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker and Novo, Smith made six changes from the 11 who started for the win against Manchester City in midweek.
Youngster Andrew Little was drafted in at right-back while Kris Boyd and Kyle Lafferty were paired in attack but it was the inclusion of teenage talent John Fleck in midfield that whetted the appetite of the 3,500-strong Rangers' faithful.
Such is Portsmouth's financial predicament it was a sparsely populated Fratton Park with the exception of the away end, but the home crowd still rose in appreciation of Pedro Mendes.
It was Little who fashioned the first chance of the game owing to the lackadaisical nature of Nadir Belhadj's defending as he robbed the Algerian on the edge of the penalty area before pacing past him and drawing a fine low save from David James. Moments later Pompey's new loan addition from Lyon, Piquionne, had the Gers' defence stretched as he drove a low shot into the advertising boards at the near post.
Little, while useful in the final third, was clearly being targeted as the Premier League side nearly took the lead on two occasions down the Rangers' right flank. First John Utaka fed Piquionne for Bougherra to make a vital interception and Hayden Mullins on the rebound blasted over from close range. Niko Kranjcar then turned inside Little with a fine piece of skill before forcing McGregor into a low save.
The Croatian international was involved again ten minutes later as Younes Kaboul's powerful run and centre landed in his path via Utaka's flick-on but McGregor was once again his equal.
Rangers went behind when Kaboul's fine cross was met by Piquionne's flick header as the French striker stole a march on Bougherra. Fleck had endured a largely subdued first half, struggling to cope with the power and physicality of Papa Bouba Diop and Aaron Mokoena but the teenager sprung into life moments before the break, sending a well-drilled 25-yard strike just wide of James' right-hand post.
Smith made a triple substitution at half-time to preserve the legs of Sasa Papac, DaMarcus Beasley and Mendes ahead of Falkirk.
Rangers were soon two down though as a long clearance forward saw David Weir unable to cope with the physical threat of Piquionne and the Frenchman brushed the veteran aside before rounding McGregor and tapping into the net.
Gers' defence was still struggling to cope with Portsmouth as Kaboul charged down the right for his driven cross batted away by McGregor. Fleck's long range shooting continued as substitute 'keeper Jamie Ashdown flew left to see the ball go wide.
Rangers were keeping Ashdown busier than predecessor James with first Steven Davis muscling himself the wrong side of Martin Cranie before drawing a save and Andrius Velicka straight drive then punched clear.
More substitutions disrupted play but Rangers managed to seize some much-needed possession but a few Davis efforts aside they rarely troubled Ashdown in the final 15 minutes.
Portsmouth: James (Ashdown 56); Kaboul, M. Wilson, Distin (Mahoto 76), Belhadj (Ward 76); Utaka, Mokoena (Ritchie 76), Diop (Cranie 67), Mullins, Kranjcar (Bopp 81); Piquionne (Basinas 60).
Rangers: McGregor; Little (Shinnie 72), Weir (D.Wilson 72), Bougherra, Papac (Smith 46); Beasley (Niguez 46), Mendes (Davis 46), McCulloch (Ness 76), Fleck (Loy 81), Lafferty (Velicka 58); Boyd (Thomson 58). Sub not used: Adam.
Referee: Lee Probert. Attendance: 9,018
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