ELEVEN and still counting. When you pick up that sort of number of straight wins it’s inevitable that they are going to arrive in contrasting styles and degrees of impressiveness.
This one picked up some of the threads from Rangers’ previous victory against Livingston, but was even harder fought and more strikingly shorn of some of the dazzling individual and collective performances they have laid on so far in this campaign. For that Dumbarton deserve enormous credit.
Two Martin Waghorn goals just after the hour mark, one from the penalty spot after Kenny Miller had been felled by Gregor Buchanan, brought satisfaction and relief for Mark Warburton’s side, but it was a times a laboured display by them. It almost looked as if the exertions of delivering some of those sublimely executed victories at the start of this campaign had them looking for a bit of a breather. A late Garry Fleming penalty for the hosts, who were down to ten men after Buchanan was sent off for his challenge on Miller, was deserved not least in making the scoreline a pretty accurate reflection of what had unfolded.
“Teams are working very hard to stop us, but hopefully as games progress we get more space like we did today, and we can try to punish team”, observed Waghorn. He conceded however that his players hadn’t been at their best particularly in the opening 45 minutes. “In the final third we needed to take more care and we lost our shape a bit. But it’s a tough place to come, they were well organised and we’re very respectful of that. But we work teams and move the ball very well – hopefully then we get our rewards as the games go on. We’re delighted with the 3 points today.”
It’s easy to seem harsh when finding fault with a side that is on a long unbeaten run like Rangers are at the moment, they were most certainly lacking zip and creative spark for long spells yesterday. Few individuals seemed willing to take on their opposite number and there was an awful lot of sideways passing.
However, Dumbarton also presented a barrier as formidable as the famous rock that glowers over their stadium, with a tactical discipline and team ethic that not only frustrated the wits out of the visitors, but also barring a small flurry right before the interval, created the better chances first half chances.
Steven Aitken’s side went about their business in an unflustered way and chose their moments to burst upfield judiciously with the on-loan Eamonn Brophy doing a decent job of keeping the Rangers defence on their guard in his role as solitary striker. The ability of Willie Gibson at set pieces always carried potential menace and Fleming was very unfortunate not to give the part-timers the lead when he headed against the post on the 15th minute mark.
Miller and James Tavernier did go close just on the brink of the interval but as Dumbarton’s controlled obstinacy continued into the second half Warburton brought on the nimble footed Nathan Oduwa and Dean Shiels to give him some pacier options. However, the breakthrough was finally secured through sheer power with the bull-like Waghorn latching on to the ball nearly 30 yards out and unleashing a low drive that deceived Mark Brown.
Within ten minutes they had the game wrapped up as Miller picked up a slack back pass and drove in on goal only to be sent tumbling by an ill-advised challenge from behind by Buchanan. Referee Alan Muir not only awarded a penalty but also held aloft a red card at the home defender for denying a scoring opportunity. It was undeniable, as was the ferocity of Waghorn’s spot kick for his and Rangers’ second.
Dumbarton may have seen their tidy game plan undone and although they must have felt drained they still summoned up some reserves for a late foray downfield which led to Frazer Wright being tugged over in the box by Danny Wilson. Fleming’s penalty was almost stopped by Foderingham but it crept in the net for a merited consolation.
“I think that’s maybe the hardest first half Rangers have had”, suggested a happy Aitken afterwards. “We restricted them to one shot on goal from 30 yards and we hit the post.
“Unfortunately we just switched off for a second for their first goal and it was a bad mistake for their second one. But in terms of how far we’ve come in a short period of time, I can be proud of the players”.