NEVER mind what occurred in the hours leading up to kick-off, this was a torrid, ghastly evening for Rangers. If this was the players’ response to a manager’s supposed dissatisfaction, then it counted as lame backing for Ally McCoist. Not that it might matter now in any case. But it was a night when the players let him down, yet again.
Scorers: Queen of the South - Holt 22, Reilly 67
There was once a Queen of the South fanzine called Nightmare on Terregles Street, aptly titled for the experience McCoist endured here. In the streets outside the ground, Christmas parties spilled out of pubs. But in the end, there was absolutely no cheer for McCoist, whose Ibrox future would have been in severe doubt after this latest debacle whether he wishes to go or not.
“Super Ally” was the chant. From the home end. Significantly, there was precious little singing in support of McCoist from the visiting supporters, who shuffled away from the scene. Has crushing apathy finally descended? Rangers might have been three down after 30 minutes. They were fortunate not to be a man down after 20, when Darren McGregor seemed to deliberately handball a cross from the excellent Daniel Carmichael.
Kevin Holt did score from the resultant free-kick but Queens will wonder why they were not also playing ten men from then until the end. Rangers fans will wryly note that they might well have been. This was another occasion when Rangers’ experienced performers were posted missing. Gavin Reilly scored a second goal for Queens after 66 minutes. There was not any hint of Rangers doing ‘an Alloa’ and recovering from this deficit.
Nothing at Rangers these days makes sense. Nothing is normal. So when the team bus drew up outside Palmerston Park last night at about 6.15pm, it was probably par for the course that McCoist emerged first, just hours after reportedly tendering his resignation.
It should not have been a surprise to see the manager greet Queen of the South officials with a cheery handshake in the tight corridors of the main stand.
The soap opera had arrived on the banks of the River Nith. Yes, Rangers were in town. This was their first league clash against Queen of the South for 50 years. It would have felt like an occasion in any case. But of course the added drama pre-match plied the evening with even more significance. In his programme notes, Queen of the South manager Jamie Fowler welcomed “Ally McCoist, the players, officials and supporters of Rangers”.
Events hadn’t quite overtaken these words – McCoist was indeed present, but for how much longer? He carried out his pre-match duties, agreeing to an interview with the game’s broadcasters BT Sport, conducted in a room downstairs rather than out on the pitch.
He finally emerged by the pitch-side just before kick-off. But there was no question of him shying away from the glare in the old style dug-outs. He stood in his technical area, arms folded, seemingly defiant at first. He’d made his move. The next was Rangers’. Or at least whoever makes the decisions at the club these days.
The supporters’ reaction was curious, however. There was no attempt to beatify the manager, no obvious songs of support. As someone at the back of main stand cruelly noted: “maybe they are just worried he will stay”. McCoist looked impassively on from the sidelines, perhaps sensing his kingdom slipping from his grasp. It was certainly a case of the game slipping away from Rangers, from pretty much the opening minutes.
The Palmerston Park DJ was in impish mood, playing “Money’s too tight to mention” by Simply Red both before the game and at half-time. Red was the colour of the Rangers strip, the colour of their faces too, after this. Rangers could have done without the sight of John Baird, the scorer of the winning goal for Raith Rovers in the final of the Ramsdens Cup last season, another of McCoist’s darkest hours. Sadly for him, there have now been several.
The visitors might have trailed after only three minutes following a sweeping move down the Queen of the South right, an area of the park that gave Rangers problems all evening. Carmichael released Baird, whose inviting cross was just too far in front of Reilly.
Iain Russell then sprinted from his own half towards Rangers’ goal, but lacked the required composure when attempting to finish past Steve Simonsen. The keeper saved at his near post. But there was little relief from Queen of the South’s pacey onslaught. Rangers were handed a break after 20 minutes after another Carmichael-inspired attack from the home side.
The winger darted away from Ian Black and then crossed in the direction of Russell. The ball might well have got there had McGregor not slipped, and then appear to flick the ball away with his hand. The home support bayed for a red card, as, surely, the rules demanded. But referee Andrew Dallas chose to only book McGregor.
Queens, though, did take full advantage of the free-kick from just outside the box. Left-back Kevin Holt stepped up and rifled a shot past the wall and past Simonsen. It was still rising when it bulged into the net in front of the Rangers fans, who were already fearing the worst. Surely their side were not going to give Hearts the opportunity to extend their lead at the top to 12 points today?
It seemed they were. Russell blazed over after Bilel Mohsni mis-kicked Carmichael’s cross. It was much the same story in the second-half, which Dean Shiels did not see after being withdrawn at the interval for David Templeton. Kenny Miller barely got warm again after half-time, pulled off after 57 minutes for Nicky Clark.
He appeared to be annoyed at the decision, remarkably. Jon Daly also made way for Kris Boyd. Queens should already have made the game safe, but Baird slashed the ball wide when he had only Simonsen to beat. It was a let-off for Rangers. But Reilly secured the points with over half an hour remaining, rifling home a shot that bashed off both posts before going in after yet more good work from Carmichael. What now for Rangers, who can tell?
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