The Murtymania bandwagon rolls on. In all honesty, nobody at Ibrox on Saturday would have been shocked, if before kick-off, Vince McMahon had appeared from the tunnel, only to announce the Rock was taking the manager’s job. It’s been another one of they all too familiar weeks.
On to matters on the park. The Murty-led Gers went into this match knowing a victory would give the club its first three wins in a row since Mark Warburton was in charge. I don’t think there is a single Rangers supporter out there who would deny Murty his smile after the game. Throughout all the turmoil he has handled himself with dignity, also growing into the managerial role, one he will now hold onto until at least the turn of the year.
Pre-match Murty had one enforced change to make, bringing in Candeias for the suspended Ryan Jack following his fine showing off the bench last Sunday. Also making way, rather harshly it could be argued, was David Bates, man of the match at Pittodrie. Bates place in the side going to the experienced, and fit again Bruno Alves.
These changes also suggested a change of shape, with the Gers attempting to get the ball into more to wider areas of the park. The thinking most likely being that Ross County would sit in deeper than Aberdeen had in previous weeks. Allowing the forward three of Pena, Miller and Windass to interchange with no set focal point in the attack.
Early on, and despite Kenny Miller going close with a volley, it was County who struck first. Jason Naismith getting the better of Danny Wilson all too easily and putting in a cross from the right-hand side to an unmarked Craig Curran in the middle, heading it past Foderingham into the net.
Rangers had to respond now. Tavernier went close on 17 minutes forcing a strong save from a well-struck shot. Rangers were having plenty possession but it was County and Curran who came close next to doubling their tally for the day, before another chance for Miller.
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The lack of width and balance on the left-hand side was all too evident at this stage in the match and the front 3 interchanging just wasn’t having the effect Murty had hoped for or seen in past games.
Nearly every Rangers chance was coming via the right-hand side and crosses from Daniel Candeias. County nearly turning one of the aforementioned crosses into their own net, Miller unable to turn in the rebound.
The first half ended with boos ringing out from the stands. This was a first half lacking in any notable quality and not moving the ball quickly enough to create space was allowing Ross County to defend in numbers. It was clear a change was needed, both in tactical and personnel moves.
It came as no surprise when, at the start of second half, the disappointing Pena was replaced by Morelos, a player who will make near post runs and drag defenders about. Hoping to end his goal drought in the process.
The tempo was evidently stepped up, with the players moving the ball with a purpose, again concentrating on the right-hand side as the focus of attacks. Morelos had a golden chance to level the scores on 53 minutes, missing when it seemed easier to score courtesy of a teasing Declan John ball in.
Just 6 minutes later and Moreles drought was at a end. Coming after a great run and side-foot finish, not surprisingly after a cross from the right side via Candeias. Game on.
Rangers were very much in the ascendancy now. Ross County, despite this, gave us all another reminder on 68 minutes that they were dangerous on the break, only poor decision making preventing them from having a clear shot at goal.
McCorie, who was impressive once again, was forced off in 73 minutes after further aggravating a foot knock picked up in the first half. His replacement was another academy prospect in Jaime Barjonas, a player many fans had tipped to start the match in Jack’s absence.
It was Barjonas who threatened next, narrowly shooting wide from a cleared cross. You could feel the tension inside the stadium with the clock ticking down. The fans desperate for a winner, in order to keep pressure in the title race, and win 3 games in a row for the first time this season.
Not all heroes wear capes. Despite a shaky display all afternoon Rangers goal came courtesy of Danny Wilson’s second of the week. Tavernier putting in a fine free kick, only to be met by Josh Windass glancing header, forcing Fox into a smart save, only for Wilson, who had followed in, to head home the rebound.
Rangers were unlucky not to add to the lead in the closing stages. Miller and John going close. It was Ross County that would be left to rue missed opportunities, after Wes came and couldn’t claim a free kick. Leading to a scramble that somehow stayed out the goal.
It was a well-deserved victory in the end, keeping Rangers 2nd and within touching distance of the top.
You could almost hear the collective sigh from the director’s box as the final whistle sounded. Murty once again allowing them some breathing space, and more pressing questions had the result been different.