Pedro Caixinha insists a combination of illness and injury forced him into making all three half-time substitutions during his team’s 1-1 draw with Motherwell.
Fans inside Ibrox were somewhat perplexed to see their side take to the field with three members of the back four missing for the second period. Clint Hill, Lee Hodson and captain Lee Wallace stayed in the changing room for the second half, replaced by Joe Garner, Andy Halliday and Michael O’Halloran.
Those in attendance wondered if the Portuguese head coach had responded to Rangers’ 1-0 deficit by throwing on two attackers and a midfielder, along with a radical formation change, in the hope of getting his side back into the game.
While it had the desired effect, as Garner cancelled out Louis Moult’s early opener, Caixinha later stated that he planned to make only one alteration and not completely reshuffle his team.
“We had a different game in the first half and the second half. Motherwell were stronger than us,” admitted Caixinha. “We weren’t mentally or emotionally in the game. So we tried to make those two changes at half time. But we also saw then that both Lees were struggling – Lee Wallace wasn’t 100 per cent and tried his very best, and Lee Hodson arrived with a high fever. Clint also felt his hamstring.
“So we were forced not only to change the mindset but then change everything else. Football can be like this and I have to praise my players for the second half. Their reaction made us happy as a basis for moving forward.”
One player the manager praised was winger Barrie McKay, who was forced into an unusual role as left wing-back in Rangers’ 3-1-4-2 system. At least, that’s what the formation best resembled, as even those involved could barely decipher what it was. “We were just told to go out and play and enjoy the game and we had to accept the challenge,” said McKay. “If you look at the team you couldn’t say what the formation was – we had one centre half and the rest were up the pitch. It was end-to-end and I can’t say I’ve played in a game like that.
“It’s disappointing not to get the win. We were a bit off the pace in the first half but did everything except score a second after the break.”
The result leaves Rangers trailing second-place Aberdeen by ten points.