AN unblemished first round of games for Rangers that keeps their 100 per cent league campaign intact on an afternoon that brought a full-on blast from Peter Houston of the incendiary variety. Nah, the spectacularly incendiary variety.
The Falkirk manager was, understandably, apoplectic about a free-kick awarded against his team for what looked like Nicky Law jumping into the ball-winning Tom Taiwo at the edge of the Falkirk box 10 minutes from time. The award from referee John McKendrick allowed James Tavernier to produce another delicious, and decisive, deadball strike just when, at 1-1, it looked like Rangers might drop their first points in the Championship against visitors unbeaten in the previous eight league outings.
Houston was in no doubt that McKendrick’s error was responsible for the outcome. More than that, he was convinced that the official bowed to pressure from the home technical area and support, both these factions getting themselves into a lather about a couple of offside decisions.
The Falkirk manager, who made some sort of gesture towards McKendrick at full-time, had a major beef over a tackle that didn’t produce a yellow for Danny Wilson in the first minute. But his choicest cuts centred around the free-kick on which the encounter pivoted and, unashamedly, he revealed he is to be reported to the SFA by McKendrick for language used when in the referee’s room afterwards.
“Shocking decision. Cost us the match, 100 per cent,” he said of the infringement given against Taiwo. “It was never a free-kick in a month of Sundays. Tom Taiwo wins the ball, the player jumps into the man and the referee gives a free-kick against the man who has won the ball! That is not a foul. The Rangers and backroom staff were having a right pop at the referee going up the tunnel at half-time about him giving them nothing. He certainly gave them something in the second-half. You wonder if pressure like that has got to the referee.
“You have got to be brave when you come to these kind of places. You have got to be a strong person in the middle of the park. For him not to recognise a) the yellow card which we’ll watch it all day long and put it in front of a panel of FIFA referees, and I’ll bet you every one of them says, whether it’s the first minute or the last minute, that’s a yellow card. At least.
“And that tackle from Tom Taiwo, I would love to put it in front of a panel of referees as well. They would say, foul Falkirk player, for the Falkirk team, not for the Rangers team. Then, after that, we lose a third goal through it. But we wouldn’t have lost a third goal, we wouldn’t have lost a second goal I don’t think because I think we were seeing the game quite comfortable. I don’t think Danny Rogers had an awful lot to do with regards to shot stopping. It’s one of those days when you feel totally let down by the officials.”
Warburton, whose side have moved 11 points clear at the top of the second tier, avoided being drawn into a dispute over the officialdom, or Houston’s comments, which he said he would discuss with the Falkirk manager directly, after saying only that he found the idea of pressure from the home dug-out swaying the officials as “interesting”.
Asked if they had put the officials under pressure, the Ibrox manager said: “In the same way their guys put them under pressure coming off the pitch at the final whistle. We weren’t happy with a couple of decisions, they mystified us, and we’ve got to make our point clear and in a respectful way. I think you would agree, the crowd would agree, there were a number of contentious decisions and we have just have to get on with the game and be as professional as we can.”
Rangers looked to be on the way to a comfortable afternoon when Dean Shiels drove into the box after three minutes, exchanged passes with Martyn Waghorn before steering the ball low in at the near post. The response came form of a stupendous first-time hit from Will Vaulks at the edge of the area. A hit so clean it could been sponsored by Persil, it found the net from 22 yards in a blur.
Tavernier’s free-kick settler demonstrated he can find any corner, with the ball curling low to the left of Rogers. In a day of great striking, Rangers made sure with another sumptuous swish from the edge of the box that allowed Lee Wallace to take his tally to a season-best five.