Plodding Rangers creak like an old barge against Motherwell - but Michael Beale successfully navigates this week's choppy waters

Ibrox groaned, moaned and wailed at times, but this tortuous 1-0 win for Rangers over Motherwell carries significance.
Rangers' Cyriel Dessers celebrates as he scores to make it 1-0 against Motherwell.Rangers' Cyriel Dessers celebrates as he scores to make it 1-0 against Motherwell.
Rangers' Cyriel Dessers celebrates as he scores to make it 1-0 against Motherwell.

Rangers manager Michael Beale has successfully navigated what looked on paper to be a choppy eight days: two domestic victories over St Johnstone and the Steelmen, with a 1-0 triumph over Real Betis in the Europa League sandwiched in between. Given the embattled Englishman has been written off by some sections of his own fanbase, he should allow himself a glass of something strong tonight.

In fact, any punter who braved the threat of thunderstorms to attend this match deserves a drink. This was not a classic for a long time and both sets of fans were left discontented. The grey skies above Ibrox matched the mood within it. Rangers plodded for long spells, especially in the first half, understandably weary given their European commitments on Thursday. But there was still a glaring lack of quality, especially in the final third. Too many shots were straight at Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly. Too many passes went astray. The Steelmen played their part, too, in lowering the tone. They were largely feckless in attack, clearly missing the injured duo of Mika Biereth and Jon Obika as a central striker, and passed up some big chances at the end.

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This is Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell’s first Premiership defeat on the road since taking charge in February. He and his staff will surely lament his team’s lack of predatory instinct, because Rangers were vulnerable. They largely contained what Rangers had to throw at them, with Bevis Mugabi strong in the centre of defence.

As it is, Rangers move above Motherwell into third place by virtue of this win and remain four points behind their rivals and table-toppers Celtic. The goal that gave them victory came on 24 minutes via Cyriel Dessers, who showed good awareness to divert Rabbi Matondo’s shot away from the despairing Kelly, high into the net. The hosts had started poorly and grumbles had begun from their supporters, so the strike should have acted as a catalyst for improvement. It did not.

Beale had given Scott Wright – seemingly bound for Turkey in the summer – his first-ever start under him. Stationed on the left of a diamond, he played on the peripheries of proceedings. The manager has injuries to contend with – Tom Lawrence the latest to swell the medical room – and Matondo joined him, finally succumbing to injury on 37 minutes following two earlier bouts on treatment. Rangers missed his pace. Sam Lammers had four shots at goal but none ever looked like finding the net. There is still a lack of composure from too many of Rangers’ forward players.

If a true positive can be taken for Rangers, goalkeeper Jack Butland once again proved what an astute signing he has been, repelling substitute Oli Shaw’s rasping drive after he had been set free by Bair on 75 minutes. It was a reminder of Rangers’ fragility. Another came when James Tavernier blocked Blair Spittal’s effort on the goalline. Then Connor Goldson repelled Spittal. Rangers creaked like an old barge under the late pressure from the visitors.

They just stayed afloat, and while Beale can breathe a little easier after this week, there is still little margin for error for him and his players. Regardless of results, Rangers remain unconvincing. Boos greeted this victory, which says it all.