06 November 2015

Match Preview: Rangers vs Alloa Athletic

Miller scores in the last encounter between the two sides.
by Calvin Campbell | Contributor

Rangers march into action in the SPFL Championship once more this coming Saturday, this time the opponents coming in the form of Danny Lennon's Alloa Athletic who currently prop up the league table.

The Championship leaders come into this fixture on the back of their maiden league loss of the season on Sunday at Easter Road. Taking a look at Alloa's form in the last few weeks, it could be said that Saturday's encounter provides the Rangers players with the perfect chance to silence the critics and return to winning ways.

The Wasps have only gained two points from their last seven league games and have lost their last three fixtures in succession. They find themselves five points adrift of Dumbarton having managed to net only seven goals in their 12 matches to date.

Also having the unwanted record of possessing the league's leakiest defence, the stage seems almost set for Rangers to return to their prolific manner of the first weeks of the campaign and register a comfortable win, righting the wrongs of Sunday and hopefully beginning another lengthy unbeaten run.

This of course is far too simplistic a take on the fixture. When the teams last squared off way back in August, although the eventual 5-1 victory was fully deserved, Alloa showed in the opening exchanges that they are no mugs and cannot be taken for granted under any circumstances. Having gone one up within five minutes of the kick-off, Alloa caught Rangers napping and hit back with an almost immediate reply, charging up the pitch where former big-name, Michael Chopra, dispatched a perfectly executed volley past Wes Foderingham and into the top corner. 

Although Rangers were awarded a penalty two minutes later, which was duly converted, the Recreation Park men showed for a brief moment the determination and grit which led to their famous triumph over the Ibrox side in the Petrofac Training Cup last season.

Both squads have changed enormously since then, and many would be tempted to lump on a similar scoreline to the August match-up. This of course will be entirely dependent on how creative Rangers are able to be and how many chances they are able to take.

Wallace celebrates his leveller against Hibs.
Mark Warburton mixed up the lineup for our trip to Hibs, with Dominic Ball moved slightly forward from his usual centre half berth, presumably in order to add more defensive bite in a game which the coaching staff will have predicted to be tighter in terms of possession than the vast majority of our encounters so far this season. 

Nicky Clark was given the nod for a start up front, with Martyn Waghorn moving further out wide, where it could be argued that he has been most effective in recent weeks.

Despite seeing most of the ball, Rangers created far less goalscoring opportunities in this game than has become the norm, although still an adequate enough amount to bring the three points back to Glasgow. The inclusion of Ball to provide more defensive nous makes perfect sense, however, a below par performance by Danny Wilson compromised the backline and coupled with the catalogue of spurned opportunities, rendered the game plan obsolete.

Looking ahead to the weekend, I expect Rangers to come out all guns blazing, raiding the Alloa goal relentlessly. Warburton has revealed the anger in the dressing room following the defeat to Hibs and this young and hungry group of professionals will be keen to 'send the fans home happy' once again. With Alloa posing far less of a goalscoring threat than Sundays opponents, I hope to see Rangers set out with the intention to score as many as possible and as such, my suggested starting XI would be as follows:

Foderingham

Tavernier - Ball - Kiernan - Wallace

Zelalem - Halliday - Holt

Waghorn - Oduwa - McKay

A decision to drop Danny Wilson to the bench for this game would come as no surprise. Forgetting his performance at the weekend, he has allowed his season so far to become blighted by simple errors and these have cost us goals on more than one occasion. 

Dominic Ball has looked the part since moving to Ibrox on loan from Spurs in the close season and a starting place in his natural position is a deserved reward.

Reintroducing Gedion Zelalem to the starting lineup would provide Rangers with more creativity. The Arsenal youngster has showcased his eye for a pass and although it could be said that the teenager is somewhat lightweight at times, his attacking credentials make him the ideal candidate to partner Halliday and Holt, his vision hopefully a key asset in unlocking the Wasps' defence.

The final change I would employ is the return of Nathan Oduwa to the front three, but this time playing through the centre. Martyn Waghorn has proven so far that he is a real threat, but is apparent that he is not an out-and-out goalscorer. His performances when utilised out wide in recent weeks have been effective, his physical strength a huge asset, allowing him to bully opposition defenders and bring the back line into disarray.

We have seen from Oduwa's time so far at Rangers that he is a real bag of tricks and possesses the ability to pull out a moment of magic from nowhere. The tactics we have grown used to seeing from opponents in order to deal with this threat is to scythe Oduwa down at any opportunity and basically to kick him off the park. It is a lot easier to get away with this, and a lot less damaging, when these fouls are committed further out wide.

However, should Oduwa be deployed more centrally, his trademark bursts into the box will give the Alloa defence a huge headache and with our resident free-kick and penalty specialists, Messrs Tavernier and Waghorn, waiting eagerly on any morsels, the punishment for a nasty tackle on Oduwa could yield a much higher punishment than a simple dead ball swung into the 18 yard box.

Whichever representatives the management team decide to send out to do battle on Saturday, I can see past nothing but a Rangers victory, and a handsome one at that. With fire in their bellies, the players want to prove that the Gers juggernaut is still on course for a long awaited return to top flight football and I do not doubt their ability to make such a statement.

Enjoy the game and come on the Rangers!

Prediction: Rangers 4-0 Alloa

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