The softness at the core of Rangers remains even in the wake of Pedro Caixinha’s departure. For the ninth time in the last 11 months the Ibrox side went into a match looking for a third consecutive victory and once again they failed.
The script was exactly the same, it just so happened to have a different director. Graeme Murty watched as his team created chance after chance in the opening half and yet contrived to eventually shoot themselves in the foot within minutes of the restart.
Average, even good, Scottish Premiership teams cannot afford to pass up opportunities and expect to win the game. Even though Rangers sides of the past would occasionally indulge in profligacy, you always had the feeling a goal was inevitable. But this is the Rangers team of today. A run-of-the-mill top-flight outfit.
Even the home support could sense it. Though their side were dominating in the opening period there were murmurs of discontent even before the half-time whistle, which was greeted with a short burst of boos. They had seen this movie before. The 3-2 defeat by Hibs, the League Cup semi-final loss to Motherwell, the bampottery of the final minutes of Caixinha’s last match in charge against Kilmarnock, all games which Rangers seemed to have in their hands but let slip. And now this.
Twenty-five minutes of near domination and yet it was the visitors leaving Ibrox with their first victory there since a 1987 Scottish Cup triumph. Better yet, it was Accies’ first league victory at the famous ground since 1926. From the moment Ross McCrorie’s attempted back pass fell woefully short on 47 minutes, allowing David Templeton to run through and open the scoring, you just knew there was only one team who would win the game.
“Candidly, I can’t believe we never got a goal. If we got a goal I think you would have seen a different mentality and different quality to our play,” said Murty. “Getting the knock so early in the second half, we got too frustrated, too frantic to get back into the game.”
The hosts could have been ahead as early as the second minute when Josh Windass blasted Alfredo Morelos’ cut-back high over the bar. Morelos then had a flick saved by Gary Woods at the front post before Morelos and Kenny Miller combined for the latter to send a low shot narrowly past the far post.
The best chance of the opening half then came the way of the Colombian striker. Having started his Ibrox career with eight goals in his first nine games, Morelos has now gone another nine games without finding the back of the net. On 22 minutes he conspired to miss a free header from six yards, nodding Windass’ cross right into the ground and watching the ball bounce over the bar. A minute later Woods tipped his shot from an angle wide of the far post.
It was at this point the tempo started to drop and the nerves kicked in. Still, there were a pair of chances just before the half as Windass picked the wrong option when clean through on the left, before Morelos hit the bar from a Jason Holt cross.
Once McCrorie’s no-look pass to Wes Foderingham fell woefully short, the air was let out of the place. Templeton, back at Ibrox for the first time since his 2016 exit, kept his cool to round the goalkeeper and flick home. Moments later the attacker had a shot from 20 yards flash wide of the far post.
Xavier Tomas almost handed Rangers a lifeline when his bungled attempt at a clearance bobbled towards his own goal. Alex Gogic arrived just in the nick of time to launch the ball clear. Giannis Skondras then did likewise to clear a Morelos flick at the front post.
Though there would be other opportunities at 2-0, Rangers last real chance to get something from the game came when Miller played over the top for Morelos to run through. The striker outpaced the retreating defenders but could only scoop his effort high over the bar, which immediately preceded his substitution.
Eight minutes later, sub Rakish Bingham played Greg Docherty down the left. The midfielder charged forward to the Rangers penalty area where his low ball across goal was emphatically slammed home by Darren Lyon.
Though Gogic was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow, it mattered very little to the travelling support, who savoured every last second as the clock ticked down on this historic win.