The manager said so himself afterwards. Win or not, Rangers will still have to improve next week if they are to cause the most noteworthy upset of the Scottish football season, denying Celtic and manager Brendan Rodgers a chance at the treble in the process.
Saturday’s three points were richly deserved but, other than the heroics of Tomas Cerny in the Thistle goal, there wasn’t much standing in their way. It was probably the worst Partick Thistle have played in 2017 and yet it still took Rangers a full 33 minutes to fully get going.
The catalyst came from a surprising source. Well, surprising only if you focus on his age and inexperience and not his performances since covering for captain Lee Wallace in the Ibrox first-team.
Myles Beerman, the 18-year-old from Malta, started his third consecutive game on the left of the Rangers back four. Typically of a Rangers full-back these days, the defender is at his best charging up the park from deep. Having had the game’s only meaningful attempt at goal to that point, he hurried forward again on 33 minutes and forced a corner when Niall Keown deflected his shot over.
“The past three games have been different class for me, coming from under-20 football,” said Beerman, pictured. “The jump hasn’t been easy and there was pressure but I took it in my stride. The manager has been brilliant. He’s given me loads of confidence and told me to just enjoy the game.”
Suddenly Rangers were enjoying theirs. From having the bulk of possession, Partick Thistle then found it impossible to get out of their own half, forced into defending wave of continuous attacks before falling behind to a Kenny Miller header six minutes later. Jon Toral’s strike, nine minutes after the restart, killed the contest for good.
Coasting past Partick at their worst and squaring up to a Celtic side hellbent on a treble are two very different beasts. For Beerman, though, the future is very simple. He just wants to keep playing.
Signed on deadline day last year following his release from Manchester City, Beerman had never before played a top-level game until this recent run in the side. Now, with Wallace all but certain to miss the semi-final as he continues to recover from stomach surgery, there’s every chance Beerman will be lining up in front of 50,000 people at the national stadium with the country watching on.
A daunting prospect though it may, it’s hard to dispute the facts. Three consecutive clean sheets is the best run Rangers have enjoyed in the league this season, and, as such, Caixinha is unlikely to shy away from using Beerman, or fellow youth stopper David Bates, if the more experienced defenders can’t get fit in time. “I would love to be involved in such a massive game,” Beerman said. “I was at Hampden to watch the last one [League Cup semi-final]. It was incredible and the fans were impressive. Being the first team to beat Celtic would be a big achievement for everyone. All we can do is prepare as best we can. It’s one of the biggest games of the season.”
On Celtic’s vast array of talent on the wings, including Scott Sinclair, Patrick Roberts and James Forrest, Beerman added: “I have watched them quite a lot this season. They are good players but they are human beings. I have got to analyse them and then try to perform my best.”