Could Rangers' set piece puppet master be the difference in the Scottish Premiership title race with Celtic?

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Rangers were struggling against Motherwell on Sunday. Off the back of an impressive result in Portugal against Porto they had fallen three points behind Celtic in the title race after they had thumped Aberdeen earlier in the day.

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Tom Culshaw (left) has been a vital part of the Rangers management team. Picture: SNS

Tom Culshaw (left) has been a vital part of the Rangers management team. Picture: SNS

This was one of those games where they really had to dig in to win. Find something from somewhere to edge past the stubborn Steelmen.

With the game in the 80th minute the breakthrough arrived when Filip Helander shrugged off Bevis Mugabi and planted James Tavernier's corner into the back of the net past Mark Gillespie.

Speaking ahead of the club's trip to Ross County on Wednesday evening, assistant manager Gary McAllister singled out he work of Tom Culshaw, the club's first-team technical coach, on set pieces.

He said: "Tom Culshaw takes care of the set-pieces and we constantly work on it at the training ground, it was great to see the work rewarded on Sunday."

Filip Helander headed in the winner against Motherwell. Picture: SNS

Filip Helander headed in the winner against Motherwell. Picture: SNS

It is not the first time the former Liverpool coach, who discovered an aptitude for coaching in Spain, has been praised.

At the start of August, captain James Tavernier noted his influence to Rangers TV.

“Tom Culshaw has been getting his book out on his set pieces but we have got really aggressive boys in the box and it showed today."

Small details

Then, after the first league game of the campaign, Steven Gerrard mentioned him specifically after Rangers won 2-1 at Kilmarnock thanks to two goals from corners.

He said: "If we can't win in open play, if we are finding it hard to beat the block because the pitch isn't suiting us or they are very disciplined with too many men behind the ball then a lot of set pieces are scored and win matches.

"I have to give a lot of credit to Tom Culshaw. He works so hard and puts a lot of effort into small details to make sure from an attacking point of view the delivery is right. He deserves a lot of credit for the goals we scored."

In the league so far Rangers have scored five goals from corners and, as mentioned, they have proven crucial.

Two arrived in the opening day win, then the winner on Saturday. Between them there was the Alfredo Morelos equaliser at Tynecastle and the Colombian again to put the team up against Livingston in September.

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In addition, Tavernier scored the equaliser in the Livi match via a free-kick from wide on the left. Putting it into the right area with players attacking the ball so to deceive goalkeeper Ross Stewart.

On the face of it, all the goals seem so simple. A good delivery and players attacking the ball. But putting that practice into action when it matters is an altogether different beast.

Culshaw, who has been a friend of Gerrard's since they were kids and came through the Liverpool academy together, has the raw materials - players with a desire to get their head on crosses and a fine set piece taker.

Three key elements

But it is clear a lot of time is spent on the training ground drilling not just the players attacking the ball but both Borna Barisic and Tavernier who are the deliverers.

There are three key elements to their set-piece success.

Firstly, all the corner goals have arrived from out swinging corners. This links with the second aspect, Rangers players starting their runs from the penalty spot or further back.

It's not a case of the ball being lobbed or swung into the six-yard box for the likes of Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic or Filip Helander to try and out jump their opponent and nod the ball towards goal.

By making a run forward they meet the ball swinging away from goal to generate maximum power. All three centre-backs are strong, powerful individuals who can easily hold off and out jump markers.

Thirdly, Rangers have bodies in and around the six-yard box to react to rebounds and loose balls.

Three goals have arrived from a secondary effort. For example, Katic's header at Tynecastle dripped to Morelos unmarked in the six-yard box. Or on the first day of the season, Arfield reacting quickest after the Croatian's header had been saved.

These set pieces goals have been worth at least six points in the title race so far. Could they prove to be decisive come the end of the campaign?

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