Partick Thistle 0 - 2 Rangers: Murty's men win ugly

Goals of genuinely high quality from Josh Windass and James Tavernier lit up an otherwise drab affair in Maryhill as Rangers secured the victory they needed to re-energise their quest for runners-up spot in the Scottish Premiership.

James Tavernier celebrates scoring Rangers' second goal against Partick Thistle. Picture: SNS.

Graeme Murty had admitted beforehand he would settle for an ugly victory in the aftermath of his team’s setback at home to Hibs on Saturday and there was certainly very little that was aesthetically pleasing about their performance here.

The sumptuous strikes from Windass - his tenth goal of the season - and Tavernier were notable exceptions to that pattern as Rangers closed the gap on second-placed Aberdeen to three points. For Murty, it’s all about results as he attempts to extend his tenure as manager beyond the end of this season so he could take satisfaction at the manner his players got the job done.

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For Partick Thistle, a promising opening to the match faded badly in the second half and leaves Alan Archibald’s team looking anxiously over their shoulders at bottom of the table Ross County who are just four points behind them.

The pace, precision and invention involved in the move which gave Rangers the breakthrough six minutes before the interval were in the sharpest possible contrast to everything which had preceded the goal from their perspective.

The visitors made a sluggish and uncertain start to the contest, far below the expectations of both Murty and the travelling support who were seeking an instant and vibrant reaction to Saturday’s home defeat against Hibs.

Thistle were by far the more purposeful and threatening side in the opening stages. Conor Sammon, whose physicality and direct running were a source of real concern to the Rangers defence, almost gave the hosts the lead in the eighth minute.

Blair Spittal’s pass allowed Sammon to forage his way into the penalty area where his close range shot was kept out by a smart save from Wes Foderingham. From the resulting corner, taken by Martin Woods, another opening presented itself to Sammon who had time to turn in the box and fire a shot just wide of Foderingham’s left hand post.

With Rangers toiling badly to bring any cohesion or penetration to their play going forward, it was a set piece which gave them their first clear sight of goal. Paul McGinn’s clumsy foul on Jamie Murphy conceded the free-kick which Sean Goss whipped in left-footed towards the edge of the six-yard box.

The Thistle defence were caught flat-footed as the ball found Russell Martin and the Rangers defender should have done better than glance his header wide.

Thistle had the ball in the net just after the half hour mark but Ryan Edwards’ emphatic finish was ruled out by what appeared to be a tight offside call.

With Jason Holt’s relentless energy finally earning Rangers some kind of ascendancy in the midfield battle, the Ibrox men conjured up their superbly worked opener in the 39th minute.

Daniel Candeias and Jason Cummings combined swiftly and accurately, allowing the Portuguese winger to burn his way in behind the Thistle defence down the right. Candeias delivered a perfect low cross to pick out the run of Windass who thumped a first time shot high beyond Tomas Cerny from close range.

Thistle could count themselves unfortunate to find themselves behind, based on the overall balance of play, and they were certainly out of luck when falling agonisingly short of an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

Sammon again muscled his way into the right side of Rangers penalty area and when his shot beat Foderingham, the ball rebounded off the inside of the goalkeeper’s right hand post and back across the goalline to safety.

Rangers made a change at the start of the second half, Andy Halliday replacing Declan John and filling in at left back.

As they pursued the comfort of a second goal, Tavernier became increasingly influential in an attacking sense for Rangers and Tomas Cerny was off his line smartly to deny the adventurous right-back when he got on the end of a neat move involving Windass and Murphy in the 52nd minute.

But the Thistle ‘keeper was beaten all ends up when Tavernier did double the lead seven minutes later. After playing a slick exchange of passes with Windass just outside the penalty area, Tavernier guided a rising right foot shot high into the net.

Archibald responded by replacing Sammon with Kris Doolan in a bid to revitalise his side up front but this was now a recovery task which looked well beyond his team.

Defender Danny Devine almost gave them a lifeline with nine minutes remaining but his close range shot following a corner was well saved by the alert Foderingham.

Rangers, with Alfredo Morelos taking over from Cummings in the closing stages, comfortably saw it out to claim a valuable three points before they turn their attention to Sunday’s Scottish Cup trip to Ayr United