He may seem pretty convinced that he won’t be Rangers manager next year but Graeme Murty could contend that he is the Ibrox manager of this year.
A comeback against a vibrant Ross County allowed the interim to succeed where permanents in the position failed. Murty has now done something which neither Mark Warburton nor Pedro Caixinha could do in 2017 by presiding over a run of three successive league victories.
Hardly a cause to bring out the bunting. Yet, significant nonetheless, especially when it took Rangers back in to second place in the Premiership – a status they rarely claimed across the past 12 months. Warburton’s team won four on the spin last December and since then eight times Rangers have failed to convert back-to-back victories into a three-game winning sequence. For long spells, a ninth such blow-out seemed on the cards with the menace and craft of Owen Coyle’s side in forward areas allowing them to claim an early lead and hold it until almost an hour.
Yet, that Rangers prevailed could be in some way credited to Murty since it was his half-time changes that had the desired effect. Alfredo Morelos scored his first goal under the caretaker – and his first, indeed, in 11 appearances and three months – after replacing the ineffectual Carlos Pena and, in that lovely polite way of his, Murty made sure his part in the turnaround for his team wasn’t overlooked.
Amidst the misadventures of the Ibrox board and the concomitant farces, Murty is single-handedly presenting a credible face of the club.
He didn’t pretend his Rangers team played particularly well yesterday, or that they came anywhere near the form that allowed them to put the Pittodrie men to the sword in their previous two outings. Yet, as he said, ultimately they got the job done. That hasn’t been a phrase you could much associate with Rangers in their past 18 months in the top flight.
It didn’t seem on when their struggles to deal with a three-prong visitors’ attack yielded an 11th minute opener. A sharp move down the right led to Jason Naismith flipping over cross that glanced in by Craig Curran after the striker’s untracked run to the front post. An engrossing encounter produced opportunities at both ends at regular intervals, with County’s willingness to attack down the flanks allowing them to exploit Rangers’ narrowness that was the product of their midfield diamond.
Murty addressed that at the interval as well as introducing Morelos, and these alterations paid dividends when, shortly after the Columbian fluffed an opening, he ended his drought after Kenny Miller nicked the ball and helped it to Daniel Candeias down right, and he hung up cross that the forward nodded in.
Energised by this equaliser, Rangers pushed for the winner that arrived in the 83rd minute courtesy of a second goal in successive games for Danny Wilson. The centre-back was alert to head the ball in after Scott Fox had clawed out a a Josh Windass attempt from a James Tavernier free-kick that was one of many decisions from referee Euan Anderson to leave County manager Coyle grumbling.
His major gripe, though, was what happened during an almighty melee in added time that had a posse of players from both sides hacking away at a loose ball in the Rangers penalty area that followed a ball hoisted in before Naismith slashed wide with the goal at his mercy. During the jostling, Coyle was in no doubt that his side were victims of an injustice.
“Big Andrew Davies was running in and Bruno Alves, not even looking at the ball, throws him to the ground. It is what it is, we never got it,” said the Highland club’s manager,, who was determined to seek an explanation from Robertson. “Maybe the official hasn’t seen it but there are other officials out there who saw a lot of other stuff today. For me it’s stonewall penalty and when we all see it back even the most biased would agree you would be looking for a penalty in that incident.”