24 August 2014

Five things we learned from: Clyde & Dumbarton

by Alan Clark | Deputy Editor

After recording a disappointing opening day defeat to Hearts, Rangers stumbled to a 2-0 victory away to Falkirk in the SPFL Championship.

Then, Barry Ferguson's Clyde came calling at Ibrox in the Petrofac Training Cup, leaving Govan with their pride damaged after an 8-1 hammering. On Saturday, Dumbarton were next at Ibrox and again, Rangers played some good football to win 4-1.

Here's five things we learned from the wins over Clyde and Dumbarton...

The Boyd-Clark partnership looks promising 

After Kenny Miller was taken off in the second half at the Falkirk Stadium, Ally McCoist was forced into making a change and brought Nicky Clark on. The 22-year-old striker helped change the game in Rangers' favour along with Fraser Aird, and even managed to tap in the second goal from Nicky Law's shot.

The Miller injury allowed Clark a chance to partner Kris Boyd for the first time against Clyde and it worked a treat. Boyd grabbed his first hat-trick since returning to the club, Clark setting up Boyd twice as they looked like a striking partnership that had been together years.

Boyd returned the favour against Dumbarton by rolling it to Clark when he could have took a shot himself, like many expected him to, and Clark finished with ease. The movement from Boyd and Clark looked encouraging, especially given the service to them was on the deck, bringing out the best in both players.

Many see the Boyd and Miller partnership as a failed one already. It's not - it's tried and tested. Miller will feature a lot this season, when he recovers from injury. But at the moment; Clark is on form, he is scoring, he is linking up very well with Boyd - so there is no need to take Clark out the starting 11.

The defence continues to concede sloppy goals 

So far this season we have seen the Rangers defence as a three and as a four. Neither have looked particularly strong, due to the personnel contained within it, most likely. With Lee Wallace being the type of left-back he is, he charges right up the left wing, proving himself to be an excellent attacking threat, but so far the nominated right-backs haven't provided this symmetry. Richard Foster does not seem to have the pace any more to do that, nor the ability to go by players or deliver a good cross. Darren McGregor is a centre-back by trade but finds himself on the right in place of the injured Foster.

Lee McCulloch showed his frailties as a centre-half last season and hasn't looked comfortable in the team in this campaign until being moved to midfield in place of Ian Black, where he has scored goals and looked the McCulloch we all know him to be again (to an extent). Marius Zaliukas has looked solid enough thus far but hasn't been helped by not having a consistent partner - Bilel Mohsni's red card at Derby didn't help that, as that ruled him out of the first two games of the season.

The French-Tunisian has come in after suspension and looked, for want a better word, a bombscare. He almost cost Rangers a goal at Falkirk in the first half with a poor header back to Cammy Bell and his complete lack of being able to pass the ball to a player in blue is frustrating as much as it is embarrassing. In both games in analysis, Rangers gave away late goals that put paid to a clean sheet and provided a slight negative on the overall picture. This has to stop if the team want to build momentum properly because sloppy defending won't always result in a slight negative at the end of a win, it will start to cost the team points, ala Hearts.

Lewis Macleod is influencing games more and more

One of the few positives of demotion to the fourth tier has been the rise of young talents Fraser Aird and Lewis Macleod. These two are the only Auchenhowie youngsters that the manager has given serious contemplation to in the first team, so much so that Macleod is one of the first names on the teamsheet. The midfielder played the vast majority of games in the Third Division, wowing the Ibrox legions with his passing, shooting and general athleticism. 

He impressed again last season, despite picking up a serious injury and being played out of position. Everyone who has seen Macleod play knows that his favoured role in the team is to control the play from the middle of the park, almost in a Barry Ferguson role. For whatever reason(s) McCoist has, Macleod has been shifted to the left side and that has continued this season, except against Hearts where he was on the right side.

Against Clyde and Dumbarton, again he was out on the left but despite being out of position he excelled. This is testament to the young man's ability. It's true what McCoist says, Wallace and Macleod do work well together attacking down the left side. Wallace bombs down the wing which gives Macleod the freedom of coming in to the middle of the park more often than what you would expect, looking at the starting 11. He did this a lot against Clyde and Dumbarton, scoring two cracking goals (one with his left, one with his right) and just shows how integral he is to Rangers just now.

He is arguably the club's most talented player and we can all hope that he is put in the central area sooner rather than later.

David Templeton is lacking confidence again

The enigma that is David Templeton continues to puzzle onlookers. He has scored some fabulous, top-drawer goals in his career at Rangers to date, most of them in his first season, yet the former Hearts winger has struggled to achieve consistency and has been hit by several injuries.

With the increase in quality from the opposition - having gone from third-tier places like Ayr United, to second-tier (and full-time) clubs like Raith Rovers, Falkirk and the two relegated Edinburgh sides - he was expected to rise to the challenge and show the quality he has.

He hasn't started the season particularly well, aside from changing the game against Hibs as a substitute. McCoist is clearly putting his faith in him by starting him so regularly, but so far Templeton has not repaid that gesture. Arnold Peralta replaced him in the second period against Dumbarton and produced two fine crosses within ten minutes of coming on - something Temps couldn't do even though he started the match.

You can tell he is lacking confidence once again and maybe things will start to click again for him with a consistent run in the team. It is early days, after all.

Momentum is building

And finally, the two fixtures against Clyde and Dumbarton showed that Rangers are starting to click as a team, in its current form that is. The spirit shown in the last 20 minutes at Falkirk was necessary, but it papered over the cracks from the rest of the game where Falkirk were on top. 

The notable absentees in Miller and Black seem to have opened up a far more impressive Rangers outfit. The amount of times the opposition is caught on the ball and a Rangers attack is launched has been impressive and this is down to far more examples of pressing by McCoist's men.

It is a mystery as to why that has just started now and when a few 'key' players are out, but it has happened. Here's hoping the large margin of victories, pleasing style of play and high quality of goals scored can be built upon and progressed to the next game and throughout the campaign.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it civil, lads.