YOU know things have reached a new low point at Rangers when even the man who is normally their most irrepressibly optimistic supporter becomes infected by the relentless gloom surrounding the club.
Rangers 2-0 Livingston
Scorers: Rangers - Aird (9), Mensing (74og)
Comedian and actor Andy Cameron has penned a regular column in Rangers’ matchday programme for several years now, which is usually a combination of upbeat humour and winsome nostalgia.
But, on Saturday, his words were presented against a dark backdrop photograph of the gates of Ibrox under the headline Frustration Is The Name Of The Game. His heartfelt prose, it seems, had passed unnoticed beyond any potential censors in the boardroom.
“As a Bluenose, I am in a state of frustration like I’ve never known in my 69 years of supporting the famous Glasgow Rangers,” wrote Cameron. “The worst feeling of all is of helplessness, because there is nothing we can do about what’s happening at our club.”
The 74-year-old’s sentiments would doubtless be shared by the vast majority of those in an Ibrox attendance far smaller than the official season-ticket enhanced figure of 28,053 announced by the club. A sense of desolation hung heavily in the air throughout a functional 2-0 victory over Livingston, which seemed almost an irrelevance in the current circumstances.
So careworn have the Rangers fans become, even the brief chants aimed at the current boardroom regime lacked any real conviction. Likewise, the attitude of the home support towards their Ally McCoist bordered on indifference during what proved to be the manager’s last game in charge.
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It remains to be seen if new chief executive Derek Llambias can pull a rabbit out of a hat at today’s annual general meeting of a club which is desperately in need of both fresh investment and a re-invigoration of spirit.
Although Rangers recorded a much-needed win over bottom-of-the-table Livingston to remain nine points behind Championship leaders Hearts, this was another performance which did nothing to suggest McCoist was capable of overturning that deficit and securing automatic promotion to the top flight this season.
Much of Rangers’ work was one-dimensional and pedestrian. Without their brightest creative spark, the injured Lewis Macleod, the Ibrox side look painfully short of guile and dynamism.
Ian Black and Nicky Law, previously proven SPL performers, appear diminished and unable to fill the Rangers jersey adequately. Even Fraser Aird, who proved the difference between the teams on this occasion, too often lacks technique and game intelligence to go along with his pace and enthusiasm.
But for a tremendous save by Steve Simonsen to keep out Danny Mullen’s third-minute shot for Livingston, this could have been another damaging afternoon for Rangers’ fading title hopes.
As it was, they responded brightly enough to take the lead six minutes later when Aird took advantage of slack marking to rifle home a low right-foot shot from around 14 yards after Darren McGregor had flicked on Stevie Smith’s corner.
Rangers were unable to build any momentum, however, and Livingston threatened to level on a couple of occasions through the lively Jordan White. But the home side eventually got a sufficient grip of proceedings, Law and Lee Wallace both missing good chances before Aird’s teasing cross was headed into his own net by Livingston captain Simon Mensing in the 74th minute. “It was just what we needed,” said defender McGregor as he reflected on Rangers’ response to their 2-0 defeat at Queen of the South the previous weekend. “Last week was a massive disappointment for us.
“It’s been a tough week, we got worked hard in training and deservedly so, but we proved a point today by coming back and winning with a clean sheet too.”
The 29-year-old is adamant Rangers can now find the kind of consistency required to eat into Hearts’ healthy lead, starting with this Saturday’s lunchtime fixture against Hibs at Easter Road.
“We can only deal with ourselves but it is frustrating because Hearts are flying,” added McGregor, speaking before news of McCoist’s departure broke.
“They are playing good football and we’re just hoping that we can just keep performing from here on in and hope Hearts slip up.
“I definitely wouldn’t say the play-offs are more realistic for us now. We are still only in December and there is still a lot of football to be played.
“We need to play Hearts a couple of times and there are loads of things that could happen. I think we are capable of going on an unbeaten run. The Hibs game now is massive for us and we are well aware that we need to start taking points from these games. We’ve not done it yet and that’s disappointing. We need to get a win on Saturday and, hopefully, that will be a catalyst for another seven or eight-game run where we are keeping clean sheets and winning games.
“Of course, there have been question marks against us in the bigger games because we’ve lost twice to Hearts already and once to Hibs. We are well aware of that, but we can only rectify it by turning up and playing well.
“I think we all have a point to prove against Hibs. For Rangers to lose 3-1 at home against any team is unacceptable.”
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