We wanted more of the same from Wednesday night what we got was even better. The fight and determination that has so badly deserted this squad of players at times during the season, was there for all to see, as the ten men had to grind out a vital win, taking Rangers into second place.
Speculation and focus beforehand was on the Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes, with it almost certain this game would be his last, before taking up the vacant managerial post with the Ibrox side.
Murty resisted the temptation to start the fit-again Morelos, a place on the bench was all the Colombian could manage. Murty however, did have to make one enforced change to the side, that had bossed and dismantled Aberdeen so impressively the other night at Ibrox, with the injured Bruno Alves making way for David Bates.
Rangers again started the brighter side, and with just quarter of hour on the clock took the lead. Declan John whipping in a free kick onto the head of Danny Wilson, the centre-half using all the muscles in his neck to loop in a fabulous header.
The first 45 minutes were largely uneventful after that from a Rangers perspective, aside from a Josh Windass shot, forcing Lewis in the Aberdeen goal into a smart save. Referee Willie Collum was at it again, wanting to be the centre of attention at every opportunity, constantly stopping play for needless fouls, never allowing the game to find any kind of rhythm or flow in the process. More on Collum later.
If the first half had petered out and was short on drama, the second 45 more than made up for it. Coming to life ten minutes in, when the impressive Ryan Jack was given another straight red card, for a robust challenge on Stevie May. I must confess my own opinion is that Collum got this wrong, getting the red card out in record time. Yet again a victory was thrust into doubt, due to another poor refereeing decision. Yes, Jack left his leg in, after winning the ball cleanly, perhaps his intent was to stamp his authority on his return to Pittodrie, but it must be noted May pulled out the challenge, coming off worse for it.
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Seven minutes later, and the ten men of Rangers would deliver the killer blow, when after nice play by Cardoso on the right-hand side, he crossed low to meet the oncoming Windass, who had timed his run to perfection, finishing with an exquisite side-foot shot.
Being Rangers, we have a habit of doing things the hard way, and just two minutes after Windass’ strike the Dons had a lifeline, Tavernier once again giving away a needless free kick, allowing sub Frank Ross score from a well struck free kick, one that in all truthfulness Foderingham should have done better at, his starting position and footwork being called into question.
Wednesday night may have been the best and most complete performance of the season so far, but the last twenty-five minutes at Pittodrie was back to the Rangers of old, and will have pleased the support as much as any of the goals, the way the ten men dug in, and dug deep to hold on for a vital three points.
Special mention must go I feel to two players, players who have come in for a fair degree of stick at times, Josh Windass having his best game for the club to date, matching his clear ability, with a work rate that has too often been found wanting, and David Bates starting in place of Bruno Alves. Bates was a tower of strength all day, not giving the physical Aberdeen forward Rooney a sniff throughout the game, he was also forced to deal with a new centre half partner after the interval, goal scorer Danny Wilson picking up a concussion and being replaced by Fabio Cardoso.
The handshake at the end of this game, wasn’t just the run of the mill appreciation handshake between rival managers, no this was more than that. It was the passing of the torch, and most likely by later this week, a friendly interaction of two work colleges. Sunday’s game will certainly have pleased Murty, signing off in some style, and although McInnes is unlikely to admit it, there will be plenty of pleasing aspects and attributes on show, he may just have inherited a better squad than it looked little over a week ago.