Rangers 1 - 1 Montrose: Rangers blow chance to extend lead

Montrose's John Gibson clears from Andrew Little. Picture: PA
Montrose's John Gibson clears from Andrew Little. Picture: PA
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IBROX fell silent twice yesterday for very different reasons. In the 54th minute, a lone piper played a lament for supporter Robert Learmonth, who had tragically died at Rangers’ last home match.

Scorers: Rangers - Crawford (og) 43 ; Montrose - Gray 89

In the last minute, the stadium was again quiet after Montrose sub David Gray had fired in a spectacular equaliser.

Rangers moved 20 points clear at the top of the Third Division but that won’t appease their irate supporters who booed them off the park, but applauded their visitors. What will be foremost on their minds is the thought that, if they play like they did yesterday in next week’s Scottish Cup grudge match at Dundee United, they will get soundly beaten. There’s no doubt about that.

Ally McCoist’s men may be coasting their way to the title. However, they are stretching the patience of those fans with a series of unacceptable performances against teams with part-time players who earn a fraction of their salaries. Yesterday was an atrocious display.

McCoist made it very clear he was in agreement with the fans’s reaction. He admitted: “‘I understand the fans. I’d be booing myself. I am probably as angry as I’ve ever been, certainly as manager. I’m not even interested in wonder goals at the end. You could see it coming. Our overall performance was not good enough and our standard of finishing was worse. The players better switch on quick or they will be completely switched off.

“Today just told me I was right when I said I knew where we were. The cup tie next week won’t tell me anything. United will still be strong favourites, that’s just honest opinion. I hope this level of performance would act as a wake-up call to not just one or two, but the entire group of players. I said my piece after the game and the players know my views.

“That level of performance can’t and won’t be tolerated. It seems a bit bizarre saying that because we have only drawn twice in 14 games, but the supporters deserve a better level of performance than that.”

There were plenty of moans and groans from another huge attendance that pushed Rangers’ total crowds for the season past the half a million mark long before Gray’s wonderful goal. Rangers huffed and puffed their way through the first half and were well marshalled by a Montrose side who weren’t afraid to have a go. They suffered a blow when Lewis MacLeod was stretchered off with a knee injury midway through the first half. They did manage to take a slightly fortunate lead just before the interval, when David Templeton’s cross from the right was zipped in and, with Andy Little and John Crawford both stretching to get a touch, it was enough to confuse keeper John Gibson and the ball soared into the net. The Montrose defender might have got the last touch, but the former Hearts man, left, was certainly claiming it.

Francisco Sandaza, Dean Shiels and sub Barrie McKay all went close for Rangers, but keeper Gibson was in top form. Ian Black clipped a free kick over the wall and against the post with ten minutes left, but Montrose’s Garry Wood wasted a super chance when he blasted over after Scott Morton had teed him up. It didn’t matter, though, because Gray cracked in an utterly sensational strike from the best part of 30 yards when he smacked a right foot shot that flew into the net off the underside of the bar – he revealed after the game that he’d been “scoring that goal every single night before going to bed since I was five years old!”

Rangers threw bodies forward in an attempt to snatch a winner and Black hit the woodwork again.

But Rangers couldn’t get the winnning goal and it has to be asked why it took them so long to get going again.

Scorer Templeton admitted after the game: “It is sore to take. We sort of deserved it because we didn’t take the chances we created either.

“I thought we’d just had a bad day at the office when we drew against Elgin and it’s happened again, so it’s something that we have to get sorted.

“We have to take chances if they come against Dundee United because they’re a strong side. We can’t give them chances either because they will punish us.”

Montrose deserved their applause and their point.

They ran Rangers very close a few weeks ago at their Links Park home and went one better yesterday. Their manager Stuart Garden said: “I said to David Gray when he came on to go and make an impact and he certainly did that! We are delighted with the draw and I thought we defended very well.”

Rangers: Alexander; Hegarty, Perry, Cribari, Wallace; Little, Hutton, Macleod, Templeton; Shiels; Sandaza. Subs: Gallacher, Black, McKay, Faure, Crawford.

Montrose: Gibson, Masson, Watson, Crawford, Campbell, Winter, Boyle, R McIntosh, L McIntosh, G Wood, Johnston. Subs: S Wood, McLeish, Gray, Morton, Lunan.