Ten games that defined Graeme Murty's tenure as Rangers manager
Hearts 1-3 Rangers, 28 October 2017
Graeme Murty’s first game in charge was an away match against Hearts at BT Murrayfield. Despite analysis of Pedro Caixinha’s tenure, his sacking, and the midweek fixture that saw Rangers have a man sent off, miss a penalty and concede a late equaliser in second half injury time. For 18 minutes, Rangers were a goal down to a team that had Rafal Grzelak in defence until Kenny Miller equalised, added a second to put Rangers in front and then assisted a third to put the game out of sight. A sigh of relief for Gers fans and Murty, who got his second stint in charge off to a winning start. A comprehensive 3-0 win over Partick Thistle at Ibrox the following week helped settle nerves even further.
Rangers 0-2 Hamilton, 18 November 2017
All good things come to an end, however, and when Hamilton arrived at Ibrox midway through November, albeit on a good run of form, few would have predicted Martin Canning’s side going down to ten men, keeping a clean sheet and walking away with all three points. Yet that’s exactly what the New Douglas Park side did. Further salt was rubbed in the wound as two ex-Gers - former youth player Darren Lyon, and winger David Templeton - got the goals. At the time it was a bad result on its own, but it served as the first hint of Rangers’ fragility under Murty - and the side’s unpredictability.
Rangers 3-0 Aberdeen, 29 November 2017
With Rangers scheduled to face the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that was Aberdeen twice in the space of five days, hands were rubbed gleefully at the prospect of two mouthwatering clashes between two teams unlikely to be on each other’s Christmas card list. Add to that the fact that Rangers had been not-so-subtly courting Derek McInnes as a potential permanent replacement for Caixinha, and the stage was set for a proper humdinger of a fixture.
Except it didn’t turn out like that at all. A meek Dons were defeated 3-0, and Rangers would go on to win 2-1 at Pittodrie just days later. The Hamilton defeat began to look merely like a blip.
Hibs 1-2 Rangers, 13 December 2017
A 2-1 win against Ross County was followed up with a midweek trip to face Hibs, who Rangers hadn’t beaten since December 2015. Their last league win at Easter Road had been in March 2015. Lewis Stevenson’s long-range effort with just nine minutes on the clock suggested Rangers might be in for another loss in Leith. But Josh Windass and Alfredo Morelos had other ideas, putting the Gers 2-1 up at half time. Hibs peppered the Rangers goal in the second period and had a decent penalty shout ruled out but the visitors held on for an important win in the capital. Things were looking good for Murty, who had now won four games on the trot, three of which were against Hibs and Aberdeen - the Ibrox side’s challengers for second place in the table.
Rangers 1-3 St Johnstone, 16 December 2017
Yet after their four-game winning streak, the inconsistency and unpredictability which had been briefly reared its head during the 2-0 loss to Hamilton appeared against St Johnstone. Morelos got the hosts off to a great start, netting at 3.05pm, but Blair Alston equalised for St Johnstone just five minutes later. Denny Johnstone added a second on the hour mark and Graham Cummins wrapped up the points on 71 minutes. Rangers followed up this loss with another defeat, this time away at Kilmarnock. Again, the Gers scored first through Declan John but Killie netted twice in the final 15 minutes to signal a second consecutive defeat for Murty. The Kilmarnock goalscorer? Former Ger Kris Boyd. The steady ship that Murty had been captaining appeared to be entering stormy waters.
Celtic 0-0 Rangers, 30 December 2017
Very few people gave Murty much hope of securing a result in the final Old Firm match of 2017, despite his credible 1-1 draw away to Celtic during his first stint as interim / caretaker boss. Celtic had finally had their unbeaten streak ended in emphatic style by Hearts a few weeks previously, but had won their last three games heading into this fixture and conceded no goals. Rangers had lost to St Johnstone and Kilmarnock, and beaten Motherwell, scoring four and conceding five. But against the odds, Murty led his side to a second draw in nine months against the Hoops, meaning the Gers went into the winter break on something of a high. Two morale-boosting wins in the Florida Cup against Atletico Mineiro and Corinthians were followed up with another three points against Aberdeen, and victory away to Ross County.
Rangers 1-2 Hibs, 3 February 2018
When Hibs visited Ibrox in early February, strikers Anthony Stokes and Simon Murray had left the club - one released, one on loan - and two unknown quantities in Flo Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren had been brought in. Hibs were forced to line up at Ibrox with Lewis Stevenson at centre half and youngster Ryan Porteous in the starting line-up, although former midfielder and one-time Gers target Scott Allan had returned on loan from Celtic. Rangers had brought in Greg Docherty from Hamilton and a glut of loan signings in QPR midfielder Sean Goss, Brighton winger Jamie Murphy, Norwich and Scotland defender Russell Martin and former Easter Road favourite Jason Cummings during the January transfer window. Hibs netted first through John McGinn and while Goss equalised with a free kick, Maclaren converted a penalty just minutes later and Hibs held on for their second win of the season at Ibrox. It was all the more galling for Rangers fans, who had seen their side win three in a row prior to the visit of Hibs, and then six in a row immediately after. Was this another blip?
Rangers 2-3 Celtic, 11 March 2018
With six straight wins under their belt, and 23 goals scored, there was an air of hopefulness as Rangers faced Celtic at Ibrox. They’d scored four away to St Johnstone, and four at home to Falkirk in the cup. They’d put six past Ayr in a previous cup match and defeated Hamilton 5-3 at New Douglas Park. An early goal from Josh Windass was cancelled out by Tom Rogic, but Daniel Candeias restored the lead.
Moussa Dembele squared things on the stroke of half time, but a red card for Hoops defender Jozo Simunovic gave the Gers a man advantage and further reason for optimism. There were still 20 minutes left to play when substitute Odsonne Edouard netted Celtic’s third, which served as a suckerpunch for Rangers.
Celtic 4-0 Rangers, 15 April 2018
Since losing 3-2 to Celtic, Rangers had lost to Kilmarnock at Ibrox, scrambled a 2-2 draw with Motherwell at Fir Park after being 2-0 down after a quarter of an hour, and beaten Dundee 4-0. This trio of results summed up the side under Murty - capable of a swashbuckling, commanding performance but just as likely to lose narrowly to teams on the up, or struggle against well organised teams. Dembele hit the woodwork after five minutes at Hampden, which should have served as a warning as the Hoops scored twice in the first half through Rogic and Callum McGregor. Ross McCrorie was sent off for hauling down Dembele in the box, the Frenchman dispatched the penalty and his compatriot Olivier Ntcham scored a second penalty to hand Celtic a 4-0 win. The aftermath of the game centred on the suspension of Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace - neither of whom had played in the game - for their post-match outburst, Andy Halliday’s furious reaction to being subbed in the first half and rumours that Steven Gerrard was the preferred candidate as the next permanent Ibrox manager.
Celtic 5-0 Rangers, 29 April 2018
Rangers did record a 2-1 win over Hearts at Ibrox the following week, but Hearts were chastised for not making a go of it against a clearly fragile opposition. The win, while good for points in the race for second, merely served to paper over the rather substantial cracks. By the time Murty’s team faced the Jambos, the Gers knew Celtic would be going all out to win the league title in the final Old Firm clash of the season, having lost to Hibs a day earlier.
Even the absence of Dembele through injury couldn’t help Rangers as Celtic ran riot. Edouard grabbed a brace on 14 and 41 minutes, before James Forrest broke his Old Firm scoring duck with the third on the stroke of half time. Two more quick goals from Rogic on 47 minutes and McGregor on 53 minutes had many people, fans and neutrals alike, wondering if Celtic were seeking to break the fixture’s scoreline record. However, it remained 5-0, Celtic won the title and Murty was out barely 48 hours later.