Rangers manager tells Andrew Smith Queens defeat not a disaster, and players must atone for last Raith game at Ibrox
THERE are more cautionary tales for Rangers from this season than the collected works of the Brothers Grimm. Stuart McCall doesn’t have time to run his players through their failings in the 3-0 loss away to Queen of the South on Thursday night that has punctured the recent promise engendered by three straight wins. He considers a better use of his time to be showing them their failings the last time today’s visitors Raith Rovers came calling to Ibrox. That produced a Scottish Cup loss under McCall’s predecessor, Kenny McDowall, that meant the club’s pursuit of all silverware ended with February only a week old.
‘The cup defeat was a poor day in an up and down season’
“I watched it on TV and then did Sportscene that night,” McCall remembered. “I did the game up there [at Kirkcaldy later in February] when Rangers won 2-1 and played quite well.
“The cup defeat was a low point, the size of the crowd around 11,000, the manner of the defeat it was just so flat. It was a poor day in an up and down season.”
If there is any comfort to be drawn as McCall looks for his team to bounce back after the Palmerston play-off blow it is that Rovers are one of only two Championship sides – Dumbarton are the other – against whom the Ibrox men boast a perfect league record.
Queens’ win three nights ago means that all three of the teams Rangers nestle among in the top four of the second tier have taken more points from the Ibrox side than they have surrended to them.
McCall refuses to consider that his first defeat as Rangers manager – which came on the back of victories over Hibernian then Hearts that seemed to cement the Govan club in second place – suggests that fragility remains as grave a concern as it has been in recent months.
“You have to bear in mind we were not playing a poor team, we were playing a team that have got some good results recently, that had beaten Hibs. They are a decent side, especially on their [artificial] surface.
“I’m not trying to make excuses for it. It was a disappointing result, a disappointing performance to an extent, but not an absolute disaster, a result that was rotten, rotten, rotten and that meant we have gone back from there [holds hand above head] to there [drops hand to below his knee]. That is not the case and we have to make sure it’s not the case by going and putting in a real positive performance against Raith.
“For 32 minutes the other night we were so comfortable. We had a lot of possession, although we weren’t a major threat. There’s not a lot between the teams, just because we’ve won a few games we aren’t all of a sudden world beaters. We know the only stat that counts but it was 15 to one in terms of corners and that shows we must have been pressing and on the front foot. Fourteen shots and seven on target compared to four on our goal but they scored with three and were clinical.
“The second goal killed it. I don’t think we should have gone in at half time a goal down having watched the game again, but the second goal [seconds after the break], we’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and making individual errors. It was a really poor goal to lose.”
So often that reason has been forwarded for Rangers shipping points. It has been offered up so many times, and now by three men, with McCall following Ally McCoist and McDowall in requiring to give vent to such frustrations, the wonder of it is that the Ibrox club are still best-placed to finish second and so require to negotiate four, rather than six, play-off games.
For the final push, which will see Rangers travel to Livingston on Wednesday night, McCall hopes his winger options may be boosted.
But to that end, he is looking at Tom Walsh being returned to full fitness rather than Newcastle loanee Shane Ferguson making an impact, even though Ferguson was scheduled to train at Murray Park yesterday, his arrival delayed by a day as the result of a sickness bug.
“Horses for courses has been the way for us recently. We will change it for certain games, certain teams and how they play and whether it is home or away. I’d like to get young Walshy back because for our first two games he was our biggest threat, and he’s a talent, the kid. Even if it is just to come off the bench he can give us a different dimension really.
“Ferguson’s had two weeks of training at Newcastle. We had that clarified, it has been two weeks contact training. All I can say is we’ll have a look at him. He had a knee op in October, so I’d imagine if you’ve been out six months it would take you a month to get anywhere near playing games.
“I don’t know the lad but he might come up and join in training and he might be one of these athletes. He might have been doing a lot of fitness work. Until we see him out here, we don’t know.
“Obviously, I got it relayed to me, from a medical point of view, that it might be difficult in a short space of time for him to have an impact. I’ll have a chat with him face to face and we’ll see where he’s at. Again, with the contact it might be ‘just be careful’ or it might be ‘let’s get in about it’.”
Just when Rangers thought they were getting in about it, Thursday’s setback has caused them to be treading carefully once more.