Rangers board left with huge decision to make: real damage and a disgusting individual performance in St Mirren draw

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has now entered the most critical stage of his Rangers tenure after his bedraggled team suffered another damaging result in the cinch Premiership.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst presided over another poor result for Rangers.
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst presided over another poor result for Rangers.

This 1-1 draw against St Mirren in Paisley – six days after the 2-1 loss to St Johnstone – leaves the Dutchman in increasing danger of being removed from his post. An already restless fanbase is calling for his head, louder and louder now. Celtic are now nine points clear at the summit of the league after winning 2-1 against Ross County. Going into the World Cup break, this feels like an insurmountable gap. It means the Rangers board has a huge decision to make: fire Van Bronckhorst and let a new management team use the next five weeks to prepare for the second part of the season, or stick with him and hope that the army of players currently sidelined by injury return and spark an upturn in fortunes.

The hellish injury list is a mitigating factor in all of this. Connor Goldson, John Souttar, Filip Helander, Ben Davies, Ridvan Yilmaz, Ianis Hagi, Tom Lawrence, Fashion Sakala, Kemar Roofe and Antonio Colak are crocked. These are all senior players who would walk into the Rangers starting XI. Van Bronckhorst is banking on a tired, confidence-sapped team to haul themselves through matches. The absences might save him.

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What is becoming more and more apparent is that this current Rangers team is miles away from where it should be. There are so many underperforming players in key areas. Alfredo Morelos put in another disgustingly poor display as the lone striker. What a waste of a shirt he was at the SMiSA Stadium on his first league start of the season. Senior members of this team like John Lundstram and James Tavernier looked jaded, the former making too many basic mistakes in possession. The reliance on youngsters such as teenage defender Leon King and midfielder Malik Tillman and squad fillers such as Scott Wright show where this club is right now. This is a terrible fall from grace from late May, when they narrowly lost on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final.

Alfredo Morelos' performance was horrendous as he led the line for Rangers.
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It could have been worse for Rangers in this lunchtime kick-off. Trailing to a 47th-minute opener from Jonah Ayunga, they needed an 84th-minute penalty from James Tavernier that was awarded after – yes, you guessed it – a VAR check to allow them a chance to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat. The equaliser actually roused Rangers into life thereafter and they had two good chances in stoppage time to win this. That outcome would have been cruel on St Mirren, though, who were well worth their point.

The Buddies may be looking for a manager themselves during the World Cup break, albeit in very different circumstances. Stephen Robinson is one of the frontrunners for the vacancy at Luton Town. A successful former Hatters player, this result will have done his chances no harm whatsoever. The man himself says there has been no contact but a call from Kenilworth next week would not be a massive surprise.

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Robinson has overcome adversity himself in a poor start to his February tenure and an early exit from the League Cup to have St Mirren right in the mix for the European spots. They showed far more vigour and strategy against their more illustrious opponents. It was only after Rangers levelled that they felt in any real danger. Their defence, to its credit, held firm at the end.

Rangers showed some flashes in the first half, with a Wright header well saved by the legs of goalkeeper Trevor Carson and some nice moments from Tillman creating opportunities. There was no cutting edge, though, from the visitors, not helped by the bumbling presence of Morelos, whose touch was worse than a brick wall’s. Erratic passing from Lundstram and Glen Kamara allowed St Mirren to break quickly on occasion. Their best chance of the half came when King kneed a Ryan Strain cross narrowly over his own bar.

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James Tavernier rescued a point for Rangers with this late 84th-minute penalty.

The start of the second half was eventful. Morelos was booked five seconds into it for barging into Ayunga as he chased down the restart. It clearly did not put the St Mirren striker off his stride. Two minutes later, he was celebrating. A long throw from Declan Gallagher was flicked on by Curtis Main and while Allan McGregor made an excellent reflex save to deny Ayunga’s first effort from close range, the 25-year-old was able to stab home the rebound. The North Bank goaded the crestfallen and silent away fans.

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Rangers then suffered yet another injury when King was floored after an aerial challenge and required several minutes of treatment, departing the pitch on a stretcher. It left Van Bronckhorst with no centre-halves at his disposal as Lundstram shuffled back into defence and Ryan Jack came on. The switch actually made Rangers a little better in midfield.

St Mirren looked comfortable enough but the one man, despite all his detractors, who was trying to make something happen for Rangers was Ryan Kent. He burst into the box and fell under a challenge from Marcus Fraser. Referee Kevin Clancy immediately booked the forward for diving but was soon summoned to the VAR screen to review his decision. You knew there and then that a spot-kick was forthcoming. Clancy rescinded the caution and awarded the penalty, which Tavernier converted.

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Rangers drove forward and Kent’s effort in the nine minutes of stoppage time was parried by Carson, before Jack meekly headed straight at the Northern Irishman when unmarked from a corner. Had either of those efforts gone in, it would have been harsh on St Mirren. A winner would have taken the heat off Van Bronckhorst, however. As it is, his future is murky. The Rangers fans booed at full time. The online clamour will be deafening. It’s now over to the Rangers hierarchy, who have some big calls to consider in the coming days.