IAN Black was sent off again as Rangers struggled to a narrow win at Borough Briggs, which will eventually edge them towards an inevitable Third Division title triumph.
Scorers: Rangers - McCulloch 71 (pen)
But after last week’s awful defeat to Annan Athletic, it was hardly the response Ally McCoist required as his men petered out after a bright opening and eventually required a late controversial penalty, which was converted by Lee McCulloch, to claim a very difficult win.
However, it was former Hearts midfielder Black who once again hit the headlines. Booked at the start of the second half, he was consistently warned by the Rangers management team to calm down and not give the ref the chance to show him another card. Once again, he failed to heed the warning after a unnecessary late challenge on Elgin sub Gavin Morrison, which earned him an all-too-obvious second caution.
McCoist was outraged at the decision and made a beeline for fourth official Mat Northcroft to protest. But perhaps Black should pay attention to the words of opposition manager Ross Jack and his Ibrox skipper, McCulloch.
Asked if his players had targeted the notoriously volatile midfielder, Jack responded: “Why would we target him? He’s a good player, but he’s not a genius. He’s not someone that we would set our gameplan to stop. He’s decent, he gets the ball, he’s a good player, but no one goes out to harm him.”
And McCulloch added: “I feel for him a wee bit as he does get treated differently with his reputation and I’ve been there myself, when I first came to the club. It’s harsh but he has to deal with it and he’s playing for Rangers, not a small team and he has to realise that. He just has to get on with it as the referee’s made his decision. There’s no point in arguing and moaning. The boys are right behind him.”
Unfortunately so was ref David Somers when he made that challenge with three minutes left. McCoist stressed: “I thought the second yellow was extremely harsh and I hope that Ian Black’s reputation does not go before him. He was booked for three or four fouls and we told him that he had to stay on the park and stay on his feet. I thought he did.
“Ian Black does not have to change anything about his game as he is in the thick of the action and I would like to see less yellow cards from him, but that may take something away from his game. I was tempted to sub him as we need 11 men on the park but I did feel that there is always a possibility of Ian being sent off after receiving his yellow card because of the way he plays the game.”
Rangers actually started the match brightly, but their momentum soon wilted when they failed to make the breakthrough and the home side began to grow in confidence, aided by their giant striker Paul Millar.
However, the visitors finally netted in the 73rd minute. Lee Wallace charged into the Elgin box, but was impeded by a combination of Elgin defenders Sean Crighton and Jamie Duff. Crighton later said Wallace himself didn’t think it was a spot kick, Somers gave the penalty and McCulloch easily converted.
Elgin continued to push a Rangers side all the way, but couldn’t find an equaliser, despite that late Black dismissal. Rangers are now 20 points clear at the top and are just a couple of games away from clinching what has long been a foregone conclusion.
Unfortunately, so was Black’s dismissal yesterday.
Elgin City: Malin; Niven, Crighton, Duff, McMullan (Beveridge 90); Gunn, Nicolson, Cameron (Morrison 85), Leslie, Moore; Millar (Harkins 76). Subs not used: Morrison, Mclean, Black.
Rangers: Alexander; Hegarty, Cribari, McCulloch, Wallace; Black, Faure, Crawford; Little (Argyriou 90), Sandaza (McKay 68), Aird. Subs not used: Gallagher, Hemmings, Naismith.
Referee: D Somers. Attendance: 3,663.