Rangers made it two wins in eight days over Motherwell. Emerson Hyndman was the best player on the pitch, Michael O’Halloran wasn’t on the pitch for long before seeing red, Willie Collum got the big decisions correct (just), Mark McGhee got the big decisions wrong, while Motherwell conceded late (again), writes Joel Sked
Remember the name, Emerson Hyndman
He’s not even played two full games for Rangers but American Emerson Hyndman has displayed attributes that suggest he will be a very effective signing for Rangers, and a player who should have a career at a high level.
The Bournemouth loanee was a deserving recipient of the game’s man of the match award due to his positivity in possession, crisp passing and willingness to move forward from midfield. The red card may have led to a re-jig in midfield but Mark Warburton pushed Barrie McKay centrally which kept a midfield trio.
Hyndman came into the team for Jason Holt and he interpreted the role the way it is meant to be. Holt passed the ball forward twice against Motherwell at Ibrox last week - not what is required in that enterprising role in the Rangers midfield.
The 20-year-old was much more confident in his ability to progress the play, take risks and move into threatening positions. Holt is too preoccupied with keeping the ball to an extent that it has become a detriment to his overall game. He’s busy, energetic but is too reticent to pass the ball forward.
Hyndman thrives with responsibility, his first instinct is ‘can I move the team up the pitch?’.
He often looked for Miller and it was the young and old duo who caused Well so many problems and scored deserving goals. Lee Wallace’s marauding runs also played a key role, but it was the vision and quality of Miller and Hyndman to split the Motherwell defence open to find him.
The American is going to be an integral player as Rangers look to shake the threat of Aberdeen.
O’Halloran passes up opportunity
Michael O’Halloran has had a strange Rangers career. Mark Warburton was eager to recruit him when they were a Championship side but failed to transfer his St Johnstone form into the second half of the season wearing a Rangers top, his inability to play in the Scottish Cup did not help matters.
It took him until October to start his first Ladbrokes Premiership match for a club who spent a reported £500,000 on the winger - the second highest fee paid under the new regime. Despite recent speculation surrounding his Rangers future he has been given game time of late. That looks unlikely to continue in the short-term with a suspension due to serve, following a ridiculously high and late challenge on Motherwell’s Carl McHugh after less than four minutes played.
It was a stupid challenge to make and left his side in a lurch. He should be thankful that Motherwell were unable to take advantage of the extra man before they too were reduced to 10 men.
After surviving extra pressure form the Steelmen, Rangers passed their way into the game and took control of the game with Barrie McKay and Kenny Miller acting as a threatening front duo. Two players who Warburton can’t drop, while Martyn Waghorn, Harry Forrester and Joe Dodoo wait in the wings.
When O’Halloran walked past his manager he didn’t even receive a look of contempt. It may take some time for the former St Johnstone flyer to earn the trust of his manager.
Willie Collum gets it right... just
It’s a referee’s nightmare: a big call in the early stages of a game. However, such was Michael O’Halloran’s challenge that the decision was made easy for him.
He then had a second call to make when Rob Kiernan slid into a challenge. The tackle sent his opponent up into the air and over him, it was another big decision, but one he just about got right. While Kiernan was slightly reckless there wasn’t excessive force, and he was in control, just. Not making too much contact helped his case.
There was no doubt Scott McDonald used excessive force. The veteran striker was only trying to recover the ball after a sloppy touch but the way his studs planted on Kenny Miller’s ankle made it a very dangerous challenge. Collum was quick to show the red card and the replay showed why.
The second half passed without major incident. There were a few sliding challenges which prompted Collum into blowing his whistle. There was nothing severe but due to what had transpired in the first half, plus the conditions, Collum was right to try and keep players from sliding in late, keeping a lid on the game.
Mark McGhee gets it wrong
Last week McGhee got his tactics correct at Ibrox. The Steelmen frustrated Rangers before easing their way into the game and attacking Rangers’ vulnerabilities. But it meant little because they were knocked out. This week McGhee will be looking back at the 2-0 defeat knowing he shoulders as much of the blame as his players.
Joe Chalmers’ inclusion on the left of midfield again raised eyebrows. The former Celtic youth player had a game to forget at Ibrox. Rangers players constantly ran past him with ease. He did little wrong at Fir Park but as soon as Rangers went down to 10 men McGhee should have been thinking about a tactical move.
After only four minutes? Yes. The best managers are those who react quickest to what is developing in front of their eyes. Rangers changed to a 4-3-2 and were pushing their full-backs forward. A more aggressive wide man could prove useful, not only in forcing James Tavernier back but to take advantage of space behind the full-back. Chalmers struggled as a defensive wide man last week and has few attacking qualities.
He eventually did depart early but that was through a blow to the nose. As McGhee pondered what to do McDonald moved wide to keep the four man midfield. During those four minutes Chalmers was off the pitch McDonald was shown a red card.
Poor game management. With 10 men Well struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Motherwell wither late again
Motherwell have kept three league clean sheets. They’ve conceded 35 goals. Twenty seven in the second half. Of those 27 goals 22 have been given up in the last 30 minutes.
Those statistics suggest something is wrong at Fir Park. But unlike conceding goals from set pieces the reasoning behind the issue isn’t easily recognisable or eradicated. Is it a mental? Is it physical? Are the team trying to attack too much? Or are they defending too deep? It is an epidemic.
Today’s defeat to Rangers shared similarities to the heartbreaking defeat to Celtic. Pressure was exerted from the away side early on forcing Motherwell deeper. From there Well couldn’t change their mindset to push higher up the pitch to try and gain a foothold.
Yet, despite defending deep they still left space in which Rangers could attack, with Lee Wallace enjoying his afternoon running beyond Richard Tait.
McGhee won’t need telling twice that this problem requires sorting. If not Motherwell will remain in trouble for the rest of the season.