RANGERS may not be the Championship juggernaut quite yet. Six weeks, eight straight wins and six clean sheets on from the home horror against Hibernian, though, they are getting close to aping an irresistible force. In no small part because Lewis Macleod, this week called-up to the senior Scotland squad, continues to be their irresistible performer.
Scorers: Rangers - Law (25), Macleod (69), Miller (75), Clark (82)
The 20-year-old attacker was central to the scudding handed out to a pretty desperate Falkirk, who somehow remained in contention for more than an hour despite offering little but hesitancy in defence, and attack. Macleod wasn’t exactly dominant during this period. He and his team were coasting then, largely because they could. But they then found a throttle, and it was the youngster’s foot on it.
A fine flying header allowed the Ibrox side to make it 2-0, the visitors – by their manager Peter Houston’s own admission – “folded,” and Macleod provided a delightful driven diagonal ball that allowed Kenny Miller to knock in at the back post, and an easy win was assured.
Ally McCoist’s men opped off an ultimately satisfying afternoon with a late fourth from Nicky Clark, provided an easy finish by a cut-back from the excellent Lee Wallace. By the close there was a command about Rangers that you wondered if they would ever find this season when they were taken apart at the same venue by the Easter Road men.
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However, crucially, Macleod and Miller were missing then, and Darren McGregor was shifted sideways into full-back to allow Bilel Mohsni to perform haplessly in central defence. The French-Tunisian hasn’t featured since that night; a period during which Rangers have conceded only one goal. Go figure.
While at it, attempt also to figure out why McCoist – who didn’t appear for the post-match press conference, his duties handled by assistant Kenny McDowall – had to be forced by his board to play the home game against Alloa next Saturday when Macleod is the only player of importance whose services he will be deprived of during the international break.
Miller certainly takes his board’s view, the 34-year-old having one eye on the trip Rangers face the following week to Tynecastle, with Hearts having maintained their four-point lead at the top of the table.
“Against Alloa, we are at home so expected to win the game and put on a performance,” Miller said. “Hopefully that will set us up for that game in a couple of weeks.
“I think it is important – obviously we have had the chance to take a break over the international weekends over the last couple of months, but this time I think it is important to play that game, so it gives us the chance, and doesn’t let Hearts get that week to try to get some more breathing space.
“It is important we take advantage of that and go into that game full of confidence.”
Macleod is certainly a player full of confidence, Miller said, with the “level” of goal – he has now eight - from a position relatively “foreign” to him on the right of midfield, a testament to his abilities.
Miller cautioned it was important not to get “carried away” by the youngster before he said that when the midfielder is eventually allowed a run in central midfield, he can be a Barry Ferguson type.
“There have been some young players at this club who have gone on to have fantastic careers,” Miller said. “One you would look to is that Barry Ferguson-type of player who plays in the middle and takes the game by the scruff of the net. Lewis is playing a little bit wider, but, ultimately, in time he will end up in the middle.”
The moment of the afternoon was Macleod throwing himself to meet a John Daly ball in from the right and smashing a header beyond Jamie MacDonald. That strike doubled a lead Rangers earned midway through the first period thanks to Falkirk failing to be alive to the danger presented by a hooked clearance. Nicky Law was alive to the possibilities, slamming in a low effort from the edge of the area.
The fascination with Macleod extended to asking the Rangers assistant post-match whether it was possible for the midfielder to do more than just be the young guy being bled into the set-up when he joins up with Gordon Strachan’s squad for the Euro 2016 qualification tie with Republic of Ireland on Friday.
“Absolutely,” was McDowall’s reply. “He’s the type of boy who handles situations really well. Even when he came in to us at 16, you could tell it didn’t faze him. He won’t join up with Scotland and be fazed. He will go there and handle it.”
Rangers: Simonsen, Foster, McGregor, McCulloch, Wallace; Templeton (Smith 72), Black, Law, MacLeod; Boyd (Daly 68), Miller (Clark 73). Subs: Robinson, Mohsni, Faure, Smith, Shiels.
Falkirk: MacDonald, Shaughnessy, McCracken, P Grant, Leahy; Alston (Bia-Bi 71), Vaulks, Taiwo, Sibbald (Cooper 58), Smith; Loy. Subs: Bowman, T Grant, Maybury, Shepherd, McGeever.
Referee: J McKendrick.
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