03 September 2012

Home Comforts: Rangers 5 -1 Elgin City

by Andy McKellar | CRO contributor | @AMCKEL |

Since our season began with a difficult Ramsdens Cup match at Brechin City it is probably fair to acknowledge that away from the comforts of Ibrox Stadium results have been disappointing. This was epitomised by our latest calamitous display at Berwick where Ally McCoist was certainly far from pleased with what he witnessed that day, even if he must shoulder some of the responsibility himself.

Thankfully recent matches at home to both Falkirk and Elgin City have served to provide some reassurances that at least within the confines of our wonderfully beautiful home, every little thing’s gonna be alright.

Both matches started with Rangers launching somewhat lethargically from the traps as the tempo never really exceeded strolling level. Of course Falkirk could have very well taken the lead when they hit the post with just seven minutes on the clock, and Elgin did in fact open the scoring following some slack defending from a dubiously awarded corner.

The finish however was utterly sublime and it was certainly a wake-up call for the home side and their boisterous fans whose noise had suddenly been lowered by a quite a few decibels. Perhaps it was a good idea for the boys in blue to start trying now.

Rangers were of course buoyed by the inclusion of one of the brightest players from the Scottish ‘Premier’ League in the form of David Cooper Templeton. Like many fellow supporters, I was eagerly anticipating the match following on from his deadline-day signing and it is fair to say that we were not left wanting. As soon as our players began to probe and press at the Elgin City defence it was clear that goals could be forthcoming.

Rangers drew level courtesy of Dean Shiels after the ball rather fortuitously fell to him inside the box. It was nothing less than he deserved however as he was once again turning in the sort of performance that merited him a place on the SPL Player of the Year shortlist.

We were soon ahead only five minutes later when a clever piece of play from Ian Black released debutant David Templeton who shimmied inside an onrushing defender before emphatically firing home. You could almost feel the tension inside the stadium instantly lifting and it was great to see our latest addition hit the ground running.

McCulloch added a third on the stroke of half-time, even if it somewhat flattered us, when he slotted home a rebound after the ‘keeper failed to hold a shot from our previous goalscorer. It was Big Jig’s 100th goal and, on the day he was announced as the Captain of Rangers Football Club, it couldn’t have been a more fitting time to score it.

If there was any lingering doubt as to the possibility of an Elgin City comeback they were quashed immediately after the restart when the diminutive Templeton managed to swivel and fire home from a Dean Shiels corner-kick. I’m sure he couldn’t have envisaged such a dream debut and he was later to receive the sort of standing ovation that completely justifies his decision to leave the SPL for Ibrox Stadium. Welcome to the family, David.

The icing on the cake was provided by Lee McCulloch as he clinically slotted home a Andy Little cutback and continued his fine goalscoring form in the early part of this season.

It would be rude not to acknowledge what a fine contribution he has made in the Rangers revival and if ever a player epitomised what it means to play for our Club, it is him. While other so-called Rangers men disgracefully walked out on the club they claimed to love, Jig stayed loyal and remained at Ibrox, a gesture which will never be forgotten. For me he is the only man who should be wearing the captain’s armband.

Overall it was a fairly pleasing performance, following on Thursday’s victory over Falkirk, and there was plenty of attacking play that got the fans off their seats. With the likes of Templeton, Shiels, McKay, and Little supporting the strikers, we shouldn’t be starved of goalscoring chances throughout the remainder of the season, and we certainly haven’t been short of them in our home matches thus far. We may be a little short in terms of numbers but we would appear to have creativity and quality in abundance. It should make for some pleasant viewing, particularly at Ibrox.

I still have my reservations about the standard of our defending this season and we seem to badly lack leadership and organisation. With Carlos Bocanegra now away for the remainder of the campaign things are far from ideal, and the combination of Perry and Cribari were hardly convincing today.

It would be unfair to ignore the fact that we essentially have a whole new defence and, as expected, it may take time to develop the necessary understanding. I’m sure it is something that will be giving McCoist more than a few headaches and I hope the slackness is something we endeavour to remedy in the not too distant future.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my trips to Ibrox so far this season and, judging by the attendance again today, most fans seem to share my enthusiasm. Our stadium once again hosted the largest attendance in the country and the second biggest in the UK. For a fourth-tier match that is quite an achievement. The atmosphere wasn’t too shabby either!

The challenge that now faces Super Ally is to find the answers required away from the home comforts of Ibrox Stadium. In our early matches we have allowed teams to set the pace and get on the front foot and once you do that it is very difficult to get back on top.

We must therefore go out and assert ourselves straight from kick-off and play at a tempo that suits our players. We certainly can’t afford too many more dropped points on our travels this season. I guess we shall find out when we head to Annan Athletic in our next league fixture whether the required improvements in attitude and performance have been made.

My fingers are well and truly crossed.