In all likelihood, yesterday was the final game in charge of Rangers for Graeme Murty. If the Ibrox board could be assured that every matchday would be as the past two have been for their caretaker manager, they would leave well alone instead of moving for Derek McInnes. Someone up there likes Murty – asked to fill the breach following the sacking of Pedro Caixinha, he has made winning, and winning with conviction, look simple.
Mind you, it would have been that for a Caixinha-led Rangers were they faced with a side as supine as Partick Thistle were yesterday. Indeed, despite the blow-outs – on and off the pitch – with the Portuguese coach, the 3-0 victory over the Maryhill club marked the fifth time this term they have won by at least a three-goal margin.
None of the previous comprehensive Premiership wins, though, had seen Rangers home and hosed with barely half the game played. Indeed, a 47th minute strike from Josh Windass to make it 3-0, meant Rangers simply sauntered through the rest of the afternoon. For such luxury, Murty deserves commendation. He has made big calls in his fortnight in charge, and every one of them has gone for him and his team.
After his restoration of the previously-exiled Kenny Miller resulted in the veteran bagging a double in the 3-1 victory over Hearts at Murrayfield last week, yesterday it was his decision to start with youngster Ross McCrorie at the expense of marquee summer-signing Bruno Alves that paid handsome dividends.
The 19-year-old centre-back didn’t merely play his part in the club’s fourth league clean-sheet but experienced what he described as “a dream come true” in netting his first goal for the club in only his fifth start. The 29th minute effort set Rangers on their way, the youngster launching himself with real conviction to meet a Daniel Candeias corner from the right and bullet a header high beyond the helpless Tomas Cerny.
Few believed Murty would leave a Euro 2016 winner on the bench for the freshman. “I spoke to Bruno before I named the team and I just said I thought they had done really well [v Hearts] and they deserved the chance to go and do it again,” said the caretaker Ibrox manager. “He was very respectful, he understood the decision. I am a big believer in dealing with the men as men, in explaining things to them. He was open and honest with me and I think you can move on on that basis.”
McCrorie is certainly moving upwards and onwards. “It’s been brilliant to be involved and I’ll just take it all in my stride,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get more games and I’ll take it from there. Murts spoke to me before the game and said he was trusting me. Hopefully I’ve performed well and showed him what I can do. To get a win and three points, I’m chuffed with it. Bruno spoke to me, just like all the defenders did. We’ve got a great spirit and we just want the best for each other. He helps me but so do the other centre-backs like Danny [Wilson]. Everyone chips in to try and help me develop into a better player.”
Rangers moved on serenely from a goal that Cerny’s reflexes prevented being one of several in the early stages because Thistle’s defensive movement was abject. Six minutes from the interval, Jason Holt was allowed to waltz through the centre of a non-existent, backing-off, backline before firing in a low effort that the Czech keeper blocked, only for Candeias to ram in the rebound from just inside the area.
When Windass capitalised on a short back-header from Jordan Turnbull to slot in immediately after the restart, a Thistle side that had taken seven points from a possible nine going into yesterday’s game looked as if they could be on the receiving end of a real hiding. Murty felt his side switched off as the encounter became a meander, while the only meagre relief for Partick manager Alan Archibald was that his team didn’t then “down tools”. Frankly, they had hardly picked them up.
The only notable development in the late stages was the 70th minute substitute appearance of Thistle midfielder Gary Fraser following a year-and-a-half sidelined by injury.
“Seeing Gary Fraser back is probably the only positive to take,” said Archibald. “When you lose 3-0 and lose bad goals, to get Gary back out there and let him run about and enjoy it for that 20 minutes was great. He’s an infectious character and it’s been really disappointing seeing him out for such a long time, but it will do him the world of good.”
The infectious nature of Murty, who will now step back from the frontline, has done Rangers the world of good.