Five things we learned from Ross County 1 - 2 Rangers
Rangers are on the right path - but they’re not there yet
The away side dominated the first half and would have rightly felt frustrated at failing to add to Daniel Candeias’ opener. They played with terrific tempo, movement and passing, as the new signings really look to have added something to the team.
However, they gradually dropped deeper and deeper in the second period and had to deal with a reasonable amount of pressure from the home side. There weren’t many chances, but if Steven MacLean awards a handball against David Bates, which appeared to be the correct decision, then who knows how the game would have panned out.
It was a tremendous improvement on the away displays against Dundee and Kilmarnock before the winter break, but still short of the total domination demanded by the Rangers support against some of the weaker sides in the league.
Jason Holt makes a fine captain
Leading the team out for the second consecutive game, Holt once again impressed in the middle of the park, covering every blade of grass.
From a mercurial No.10 at Hearts to a midfield workhorse with the Light Blues, it’s been an incredible transformation from the player over these past three years, though perhaps not all that surprising when you think about it.
After all, every time his manager goes out and signs someone who should take his place in the team - Greg Docherty, anyone? - he always seems to battle back and force himself back into the starting XI. It’s happened time and time again and shows unwavering determination from the diminutive midfieder.
N’Gog may be County’s final hope
The Highlanders set themselves out to defend, pack the midfield and feed off Craig Curran in attack. It’s a plan they’ve used often this season and, as you can see by the league table, it’s rarely worked. Curran is an industrious striker who can battle, but his lack of size makes it difficult, especially without much support. Even by the standards of this season he didn’t enjoy a good time of it against Rangers, struggling to even win the physical match-up with Russell Martin, not the biggest of centre-backs. In his brief time on the park - two sub appearances to date - David N’Gog has looked a little rusty, but he’s got the technique and the size to become the forward County have been crying out for all season. He’s someone who can lead the line and make things happen without much help.
Owen Coyle’s men are a soft touch
Once again the County boss lamented the performance of the referee. While he’s right to feel aggrieved in a sense, they have had some tough decisions go against them of late, there is one aspect of his side’s recent run which he and his players can do more to prevent.
It seems in each and every game the Staggies are guilty of conceding a ridiculously soft goal. Whether it’s Andrew Davies gifting an opener at Thistle, Harry Souttar thundering a header past his own keeper, or Aaron McCarey letting a Daniel Candeias shot spill through his fingertips (or indeed, Ross Draper playing the ball right to Jason Cummings), they’re beating themselves before their opponents have the chance. With time fast running out, this problem can’t go on any further.
Morelos v Cummings is an intriguing inter-team battle
Scoring in only his second game for his new club was exactly what Jason Cummings needed after a frustrating spell at Nottingham Forest.
Though he would insist otherwise with his unrelenting bravado, there had to be a feeling of relief when he netted his first Ladbrokes Premiership goal so soon into his Ibrox career. Even by his own admission he’s behind team-mate Alfreo Morelos in the pecking order, and it wouldn’t have done him any good to go through a scoring drought.
It’ll now be interesting to see what Graeme Murty does with his two goalscorers going forward. Morelos can do a lot of good work outside the box - though he was admittedly poor against County in that regard - so there is an option to pair them both together.
Although, recent selection, and the form of Josh Windass this season, would suggest the Rangers boss prefers a midfield five with everyone fully fit. Cummings isn’t tailor-made for such a role, but would be difficult to keep him in the supersub role if he continues to do what he does best and find the back of the net.