IT WAS a tale of two goalkeepers as Rangers kept their 100 per cent league record and reinstated an eight-point lead at the top of the Scottish Championship despite a sub-par performance against a plucky St Mirren side.
SCORERS: Rangers - Holt (25)
Jason Holt’s winner was a strike of great quality, but St Mirren’s experienced stopper Jamie Langfield will be disappointed after he waved away the effort, thinking it was heading past the far post before it landed in the net.
In contrast, Wes Foderingham produced three superb stops for the visitors to back up a resolute defensive performance by the visitors.
Questions have been asked of the defence in the wake of St Johnstone’s victory at Ibrox last month, but on a day where Rangers were far from the best, the boys at the back stood up to the challenge and kept a vital clean sheet. The back-line limited the number of clear-cut chances, while Foderingham produced the heroics when the hosts did manage to break through.
“We were six out of ten today, the players will be the first to admit that,” said Rangers manager Mark Warburton.
“It was a tough test. Wes was the busiest he’s been this season. He’s made two or three terrific saves. We showed our fans we could stand up to a different kind of test.”
Given the visitors’ all-conquering start in the Scottish Championship, St Mirren entered the game as underdogs but they could have been a goal up after only 45 seconds. Scott Agnew’s soaring shot had to be tipped over by Foderingham in a moment that would set the tone for the entire match.
Rangers’ first chance came when Lee Wallace picked out Kenny Miller with a cross from the left, though the striker couldn’t angle his body to divert the ball on target.
Callum Gallagher then had two chances in as many minutes. First he sent an off-balance volley over the bar, then came a lot closer with a low drive that whistled past the near post.
Two minutes prior to taking the lead, Rangers almost conspired to score what would have been a bizarre own goal. Lee Wallace attempted a pass to the other side of his own penalty area which quickly turned into a threatening in-swinging cross that evaded a scrambling Foderingham and, fortunately for Wallace, the far post.
The visitors quickly recovered and took the lead. Miller and Martyn Waghorn interchanged before the latter released Holt breaking into the centre of the penalty area. A heavy first-touch took him wide, though this didn’t dissuade the midfielder from firing a powerful drive which bulged the net at the back post.
“I thought it was going wide at first,” said Langfield. “Looking back, I need to do better. I’m first to hold up my hands. It’s the defining moment in the game and it’s cost us.”
Stephen Mallan almost levelled the scores three minutes later with a curling free-kick which Foderingham did well to push around the post, before Rangers had the ball in the net once more, only for the referee’s assistant to rule Miller’s close-range finish offside. The veteran front-man would have another couple of opportunities before the interval – scuffing a Barrie McKay cross wide and then being denied by a block from Jack Baird.
The hosts came out for the second half with a renewed sense of vigour and midfielder Agnew went close on three occasions in the opening 15 minutes. Once more he was denied by a brilliant save as the ’keeper tipped a side-footed effort wide, though Foderingham was reduced to the role of spectator as Agnew tried his luck twice more, each time sending a shot inches wide of the post.
St Mirren expended a lot of energy with their efforts and Rangers soon regained control of the match. McKay fired over from the edge of the area and Nicky Clark – a substitute for Miller – was unlucky to see a close-range effort denied by an unorthodox save by Langfield as the keeper repelled the ball with the side of his torso.
The hosts fought until the finish, but when a Mallan free-kick whistled over the bar in the second minute of stoppage time, all hope of ending Rangers’ 100 per cent record went with it.
Foderingham could play for England – Warburton
Rangers held on to their 100 per cent record in the Ladbrokes Championship with a 1-0 win at St Mirren thanks largely to a tremendous performance by goalkeeper Wes Foderingham – prompting his manager to state the Ibrox stopper can one day play for England.
A long-time admirer of the 24-year-old, Warburton made him one of his first summer signings after the player left Swindon Town. He kept faith in him after a shaky start and such belief paid dividends in Paisley yesterday as Foderingham made three top-class saves to preserve a vital clean sheet.
After winning the match through a first-half strike by Jason Holt, Warburton was all too happy to sing the praises of the hero between the sticks.
“I think he could be [an international goalkeeper],” said the Ibrox boss.
“If you look around the ’keepers, we had a ’keeper at Brentford, best in the Championship in young David Button, and we watched Wes work and there’s not a lot in it.
“We want to keep Wes here, but he can certainly play at a very high level.
“For a goalkeeper he’s a baby, so there’s still a lot more to come as he learns and develops. Hopefully that’s here with us.”
Some questioned the signing following Foderingham’s mistake in his first game of the season – a 6-2 win at Easter Road in the Petrofac Training Cup – though there has been no doubt about the ’keeper’s improvement since those rough beginnings.
“Questions weren’t asked by us. We always knew his quality,” added Warburton.
“It’s a big club to come to and he’s got to learn. We’re asking him to play a lot of football with his feet.
We demand that of him and he’s delivered the goods time and time again.
“I think he’s going to get better and better.”