TEN out of ten for Rangers, but in the end it was a bit of a close run thing. It wasn’t as if Mark Warburton’s men didn’t dominate this game and make a plethora of chances, but an admirably resilient Queen of the South side coupled with an uncustomary absence of clinical finishing meant that it was not until the final minute that they secured the victory through a Martin Waghorn header.
It proved to be a triumph of persistence for the Ibrox side’s leading scorer as just a minute earlier he looked to have blown the opportunity to wrap it all up by seeing his spot-kick pushed away by a fine diving save by the visitors’ Robbie Thomson.
No wonder the players from both sides were puffing their cheeks at the end of this one. Despite all the pressure from the hosts, it was Queens who led at the interval through a Derek Lyle goal and it took a huge effort to break their resistance. “It was a tough game”, admitted Warburton. “It’s the first time we’ve been behind in the league this season and it was a case of telling the players at half-time to be patient. We also reacted in a really positive way after the penalty miss and I was delighted for Waggy that he got that goal.”
“It’s not going to be four or five for us every game, and I thought we showed good focus and good concentration to get the win today.”
It started off looking as though it was going to be simple enough for Rangers as they charged forward and laid siege to the visitors’ goal. Barrie McKay posed all sorts of menace down the left flank giving makeshift right back Kyle Jacobs a torrid time, but through a combination of brave defending and loose finishing the expected breakthrough did not materialise.
Having weathered the early storm, Queens began to play a bit and served notice that they might be able to pose a question or two themselves when Alex Harris got in behind James Tavernier and sent angled drive just wide of the target. Their calm perseverance saw them use possession tidily and ultimately take a surprise lead as Chris Higgins flicked a corner to the feet of Lyle who had ample time to fire a shot into the roof of the net.
It took the wind out of the Ibrox players and support alike and they needed the pause afforded by the interval to regain their focus. On the restart it was once again all lung-bursting running and constant interchanges, but unlike the opening 45 minutes they didn’t have to wait long to finally get themselves a goal. A through-ball found Jason Holt clear in the Queens box and although Thomson was out quickly to close down the angles he still found space to drill home the equaliser.
Inevitably this was the cue for an even more furious onslaught from Rangers but the visitors seemed to be navigating their way through the maelstrom and towards a share of the spoils. A roller-coaster 60 seconds for Waghorn at the end ultimately put paid to that however. After Andy Halliday went crashing to the ground in the box, the Englishman stepped up to take the penalty but his effort was at a comfortable height for the diving Thomson to turn away. He might have been crestfallen but his determination to make amends saw him get into a perfect position to glide substitute Nathan Oduwa’s cross into the net to preserve his side’s 100 per cent record in the league campaign.
It was hard to take for Queens manager Jamie Fowler. “It’s really frustrating to lose a goal so late in the game,” he reflected, “but I’ve got to give credit to the players – they were different class today.”