Rangers show the need for a rebuild despite 3 wins from 3 for Beale with Ross County in missed opportunity
That fragility currently sits with the Ibrox club. Michael Beale had won his first two matches as the team travelled north to face Ross County in Friday night’s encounter. In doing so, Rangers had to come from behind in both of those matches, using every second of stoppage time in the second. After all, there is a reason the former Steven Gerrard lieutenant is now the main man at the club, things had unravelled under Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Beale intimated that a much-needed revamp and freshening up of a squad which is, on average, the second oldest in the Premiership, will have to wait until the summer. There is a desire to see the raft of players unavailable return sooner rather than later. As Rangers slogged their way to success over the Staggies, courtesy of a first-half effort from John Lundstram, that need to rebuild and that desire for the likes of Tom Lawrence, Ianis Hagi and Steven Davis was strengthened. There was a lot of plodding, a lack of pace and energy, of substance and excitement. That was one side of the match.
The other side was Ross County and what they should feel is a missed opportunity. That chance to really get at their wealthier opponents and record a famous result. They had not defeated Rangers in 17 attempts. They eased their way into the match and then, almost as if they realised their opponents were not to be feared, decided to put that vulnerability to the test. In Beale's wins over Hibs and Aberdeen, Rangers had given up soft goals. The latter victory saw criticism of goalkeeper Allan McGregor who sat out the match at the Global Energy Stadium due to illness. His replacement Jon McLaughlin had to come up with a big stop midway through the first half when Jordan Tillson found George Harmon at the back post with James Tavernier unaware. The full-back's effort was blocked by the quick reflexes of McLaughin.
Moments later, Owura Edwards took advantage of slack play down the Rangers left, ran into the box and got his shot away before Connor Goldson could tackle but was unable to get the ball in at the back post with the angle narrowing.
It was in those moments where County's opportunities existed. And with the way Rangers had given them up and defended in previous matches, there was the sense there would be more to come, as long as they kept it tight at the other end. They didn't. No one will be more annoyed at the way the visitors were allowed to take the lead than Mackay. Rangers stroked the ball around in front of the Staggies, as they had done for much of the first half, without any penetration or incision, Malik Tillman and Ryan Kent anonymous and on the periphery respectively. Then, all of sudden, County decided to present a tunnel, wide, open and welcoming for Lundstram to fire low past Ross Laidlaw from the edge of the box. Watching it back, the County boss will see his team had plenty of bodies behind the ball but too deep and not nearly enough engagement of the ball.
It was at that point where, even with the possible generosity from Rangers, it was hard to envisage a way back for a County side who average the fewest shots on target per match and have now scored the fewest goals in the Premiership.
While the visitors were rarely troubled, a concern was the inability to build on that Lundstram goal after the break. There was no verve, even with the addition of Alfredo Morelos for the ineffectual and limited Fashion Sakala. Players who you expect to step up and dominate when there is a need for inspiration didn't. Players who had been given a chance to show they deserve to be regarded as important members of the squad going forward failed, including Rabbi Matondo who spurned a wonderful chance deep into stoppage time.
One player who didn't was left-back Adam Devine. The 19-year-old demonstrated a willingness, aggression and a quality in possession. He was picked out time and time again with cross-field passes as Rangers created space for him to gallop into with their movement. No player created more chances or completed more dribbles. His composure to get his head up to pick out a cross or pass in the final third was hugely impressive. It was far from his issue that his team-mates failed to make the most of his forays forward.
In the end, for the third game running, Rangers put a bit of pressure on rivals Celtic by winning before the league leaders played, especially with a derby at Ibrox on the horizon. But, once again, on the evidence provided it is hard to see this team doing anywhere near enough to prolong a title race beyond the winter, unless improvements are made. Whether that be additions in January, a reliance on injured stars to hit the ground running on their return or a massive upturn in form of those currently available.
For County, it was simply a missed opportunity to record a famous win over Rangers having taken advantage of the Glasgow side’s vulnerability.
Ross County (4-2-3-1) – Laidlaw; Randall, Watson, Iacovitti, Harmon; Cancola, Loturi; Owura, Tillson, Dhanda; White.
Rangers (4-2-3-1) – McLaughlin; Tavernier, Goldson, Davies, Devine; Kamara, Lundstram; Arfield, Tillman, Kent, Fashion JR.
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