How Rangers fringe men fared as Cedric Itten strike seals Firhill friendly win

On an evening when he used 21 players in total, Steven Gerrard would have learned little he didn’t already know about his Rangers squad as they kicked off their pre-season schedule with a 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle at Firhill.

Rangers striker Jermain Defoe is denied by a smart save from Partick Thistle goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon in the first half of the pre-season friendly at Firhill on Monday night. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Cedric Itten scored the 83rd minute winner for the Scottish champions shortly after their captain James Tavernier had missed a penalty.

But it was an evening when few, if any, of Gerrard’s fringe players suggested they are ready to lay down a serious claim to displacing any of his tried and trusted performers in the season ahead.

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The Ibrox manager offered them the opportunity to do so, effectively fielding two separate teams in each half of the contest with only goalkeeper Robbie McCrorie completing the full 90 minutes for the visitors.

Cedric Itten scores the only goal of the game for Rangers in their pre-season friendly against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Monday night. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The onus is on the likes of Glenn Middleton and Jordan Jones, who were both loaned out last season, to prove they are ready to secure more regular involvement in Gerrard’s plans.

But neither of the wingers, operating in support of veteran player-coach Jermain Defoe in the opening 45 minutes, could find much of a spark.

Jones did deliver one incisive through ball to create the first chance of the contest for Defoe who was denied by a smart save from Thistle goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon.

Middleton passed up a simple opportunity to put Rangers in front, horribly miscuing a shot from around 12 yards after being set up by Jones.

The first half central defensive pairing of George Edmundson and Jack Simpson looked vulnerable at times with McCrorie sparing their blushes when he touched over a free header from Thistle striker Brian Graham.

Rangers turned to a more recognisable and established line-up for the second half and their greater dominance of possession eventually told against the home side.

But Ian McCall’s team, who will begin their competitive campaign with a League Cup match at home to Dunfermline on Saturday, could take huge encouragement from a display which suggests they can be a force to be reckoned with on their return to the Championship.

A front three of Kemar Roofe, Itten and Ianis Hagi was always going to stretch the tiring Thistle defence. Sneddon’s defiance saw him make further stops to deny Itten and Roofe before Rangers’ pressure earned them a penalty with eight minutes remaining.

Richard Foster was judged to have blocked a Tavernier free-kick with a hand but Rangers’ cavalier right-back, their top scorer last season, struck the ball against Sneddon’s right hand post from the spot.

But the breakthrough came just a minute later when Roofe’s cross from the right was nodded down by Hagi for Swiss international Itten to slot home a left foot shot.

From a physical conditioning perspective, it was an ideal workout from Gerrard’s perspective. He will seek greater sharpness in the forthcoming friendlies, starting at Tranmere Rovers on Saturday, before Rangers get their Premiership defence underway against Livingston at Ibrox on July 31.

Rangers first half (4-3-3): McCrorie, King, Edmundson, Simpson, Maxwell; Williamson, Mayo, Wright; Middleton, Defoe, Jones.

Rangers second half (4-3-3): McCrorie, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey; Kelly, Davis, Aribo; Roofe, Itten, Hagi.

Partick Thistle (4-5-1): Sneddon, Foster, O’Ware (Steadman 62), Bell, Holt; Murray (Stevenson 87), McKenna (Black 87), Docherty, Bannigan (MacIver 62), Tiffoney (Ocholi 62); Graham (MacKenzie 77).

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