01 November 2012

Rangers vs ICT: The Return of Mr Hyde

by Andy McKellar | CRO Deputy Editor

When Rangers were drawn against Motherwell in the League Cup it was viewed by many as an opportunity to showcase all the qualities and attributes that the Scottish Premier League was missing out on. The Rangers’ fans certainly did their bit, with one of the biggest attendances in the UK that midweek, and created an atmosphere that would have been worthy of many of our European glory nights that we have witnessed in the past.

The players also stepped up and made themselves counted. They hassled and harried the then SPL leaders into making countless mistakes and played some very good flowing football in the process. Goals from Lee McCulloch and Dean Shiels saw Rangers comfortably progress through to the next round and the performance showed the potential that the current team holds.

Last night McCoist and his men were again given the chance to make the headlines by knocking out yet another top-flight side from the same competition. Unfortunately by the end of the ninety minutes, the headlines being fervently typed by journalists were certainly in stark contrast to what the manager and the supporters were hoping to see. As was the performance and result.

In the first twenty minutes or so of the match it was actually a refreshingly exciting cup-tie with both goalkeepers being called into action and with enough decent football on show to keep things interesting. Inverness were the first to take one of their chances however thanks to a tidy finish from former-Ranger Andrew Shinnie and they never really looked back from that point onwards.  

Suddenly Rangers lost the ability to pass, move and tackle. Any positives that could have been taken from the early exchanges suddenly began to vanish and Reguero in Caley Thistle’s goal became a mere spectator. Our midfield became lost and nobody seemed to know what they were doing. McCulloch was also becoming increasingly isolated as Inverness succeeded in pinning Rangers back and only long, hopefully punts up the park relieved the pressure momentarily.

McCoist certainly could not have been pleased at half-time and I wished, more in hope than expectation, that he would change the formation and perhaps introduce the much needed flair of Barrie McKay into the match. He didn’t of course and before we knew it we were 2-0 down, courtesy of some terrible set-piece defending, and struggling to stay in the match.

Ally eventually decided to roll the dice and make some changes. Unfortunately they baffled me just as much as the rest of the evening. Can anyone explain the thinking behind putting your top scorer back into midfield, where he is far less effective, when you are chasing a couple of goals? Can anyone explain why he took off the only one of our three central midfielders who was actually doing anything noteworthy? I couldn’t help but shake my head.

Also, many of you will have noticed that the Inverness right-back was guilty of committing many fouls and the fans were calling for the ref to show him his second yellow of the evening. It would have made perfect sense to throw on McKay or Aird and have them run at him relentlessly for the remainder of the night. To be fair, Ally did this for about 60 seconds before curiously shifting McKay into the middle and moving MacLeod over to the left, leaving both players out of position. I’d love to hear him explain that one. Nobody sitting around me could.

Inverness Caley eventually sealed the game courtesy of what appeared to be a softly awarded penalty but in truth it was nothing less than they deserved. In fact, Rangers had Neil Alexander to thank for keeping the score down and avoiding further embarrassment for himself and his fellow teammates. It is little wonder that Terry Butcher savoured the victory in the manner in which he did.

I think it is fair to acknowledge that our main priority is of course to win the Third Division and gain one of the necessary promotions of our journey back to the top of Scottish football. Our league position would suggest that we are on course to do that but I can’t help but feeling that at times we are simply papering over the cracks.

Now, if you are of the mindset that Ally McCoist simply cannot be criticised for anything he does or will do, then I advise you stop reading at this point. In my opinion, based on the evidence of his time as Rangers’ manager, I simply don’t think he is the right man for the job. Tactically I think he is very na├»ve and I have no doubt that he is struggling to get the best out of his players. Last night epitomised some of the problems that we’ve been having.

Ally of course is doing the job to the best of his ability and I have no doubts over his commitment, love and loyalty to the Club. Sometimes though that simply isn’t enough for someone to be a successful manager and I can’t help but fear that this is the case with McCoist. I don’t think however that I’ve ever wanted to be so wrong in my life.

I’m certainly not the only one who has questioned his ability and he must start providing the answers in the near future, although admittedly I seem to have been saying this for a while. His players can certainly do their bit and I can’t help but wonder what has happened to guys such as Ian Black, who is a shadow of the player I watched on a few occasions at Hearts last season. I certainly hope McCoist’s decision to leave him on the park last night isn’t indicative of his acceptance of such performances. Then again, maybe I’m being unfair.

Rangers must now put last night’s nightmare to the back of their minds and focus on the weekend’s match against Paul Hartley’s Alloa. Having now exited two cup competitions there is no doubt that McCoist will badly want to avoid making it a hat-trick at this stage of the season. His team must therefore perform much better than they did last night and show the passion and desire that we expect from any Rangers team.

We’ve been so Jekyll and Hyde this season that it has been frightening. If ever there was a time to go on a good run of results it is now.

Over to you, Ally.

Andy is the Deputy Editor of our half-decent blog. He can be found on Twitter at @AMCKEL or via email: amckel@thecoplandroad.org