Rangers 4 - 0 St Mirren: Andrew Dallas awards Rangers four penalties

The tweet flying around this evening said everything about the extraordinary events at Ibrox. With four penalties awarded to Rangers by referee Andrew Dallas, one online humourist speculated whether the official was allowed to keep the match ball.

Rangers captain James Tavernier converts from the spot. Pic: SNS/Rob Casey

Dallas certainly could hardly be said to be on the ball as regards his judgement in awarding the quartet of spot-kicks. Two appeared poor calls, one questionable, although bizarrely there were two other incidents that might have been penalties for the home side that Dallas waved away. It was that sort of bizarre afternoon.

A first such penalty haul in modern-day history for Rangers, it must be said that even without these decisions from Dallas Steven Gerrard’s side would have had enough to cut the gap over Premiership leaders Celtic to three points before the Scottish champions away encounter at St Johnstone tomorrow afternoon. Not that the Ibrox manager was fooled to think that the sort of patchy performance produced by his side would be sufficient to pick up points at Pittodrie against Aberdeen on Wednesday.

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If ever any early penalty proved portentous, it was the one that St Mirren defender Ethan Erhahon gifted the home side after only one minute 56 seconds by lazily sticking out his leg to fell Jermaine Defoe. James Tavernier converted and there ended the indisputable when it came to Dallas pointing to the spot.

He did so again in 24 minutes after Paul McGinn seemed to make such minimal contact with Defoe that there appeared some suggestion the striker himself had gestured that no offence had been committed. It seemed a degree of justice was served when Tavernier smacked the right-hand post with the resultant award.

“He [Defoe] didn’t appeal for one,” said Gerrard, who admitted that being involved in such a four penalty games was a first for him, the closest parallel the 39-year-old could bring up being three penalties he took for Liverpool - missing one - in a game at Old Trafford five years ago. “The referee’s given the penalty, Jermaine has tried to ride the challenge, the contact is debatable but the referee has given the penalty and I don’t think Jermaine or myself have anything to say on that. I thought all the others were penalties.”

St Mirren manager Oran Kearney, in the most fair-minded manner possible - “I need to be really careful” is how he opened his post-match media conference - had a different assessment on an afternoon in which he could be otherwise encouraged by the energy and enterprise that infused the play of the Premiership’s bottom club. Although he was ultimately annoyed that his team started feeling sorry for themselves in losing a fourth goal - Ryan Kent lashing in from an angle for the only strike netted from open play - only a minute after the fourth penalty. “When you keep getting thrown the type of decisions that kept coming our way, human nature dictates that it is hard not to think ‘God how are we ever going to get something out of this?’”

Penalty no.3 that was given for handball from Greg Tansey following a Tavernier cross after 54 minutes failed on two counts according to Kearney. It was outside the box and, with hands in front of face, not a case of limbs in an unnatural position. The outside-the-box argument was re-used for his dismissal of the fourth spot-kick in the 79th minute, Tansey grabbing at Candeias a yard in front of the 18-yard line, with the winger collapsing into the box. For the conversion duties on that fourth, on-a-hat-trick for penalties Tavernier, gave way to Defoe, who took the opportunity to claim a first league goal since moving north from Bournemouth in a loan deal a month ago.

Kearney revealed afterwards he had gone to see Dallas, a first post-match visit to a referee’s room since he came to Scotland in September. “I have watched them back there is one definite penalty and three that aren’t,” he said. “I went in to see Andrew Dallas afterwards and we had a good conversation. There was no histrionics or anything else that goes with it. The purpose of this is not to hang the referee out to dry – he has to make his decision in a split second - I just asked his opinion but he hadn’t seen them back so hasn’t accepted there were mistakes.” Dallas is sure to be made painfully aware of his errors in the slaughterfest he will face over the coming days. Gerrard and Kearney may feel their team have known better days. For Scottish football officialdom, there have been few more cringeworthy.