Rangers got back to winning ways on Saturday with a strong 3-1 win against Hearts. In front of 14,000 away fans, the team performed well given everything that’s been going on of late. Graeme Murty and the players can be rightly happy with their showing at the home of Scottish Rugby.
Rangers started the game in something of a 4-4-2 shape, with Kenny Miller recalled to partner Morelos. Hearts were missing a few experienced players, and had a 16 year old and 19 year old starting in their midfield. With the travelling support in a party mood, the atmosphere was excellent.
The game started pretty slowly in truth. Rangers were on the front foot though. Josh Windass should have done better with an effort from outside the box, and Miller was denied from a good through ball by Tavernier. A strong run from Holt was one of the better chances at this stage. Declan John opened up space for him to cut inside, but his effort was easily saved. Rangers also spurned a few chances through some loose passing, with Miller in particular struggling to find his range.
And then, against the run of play, Hearts took the lead on 24 minutes. A throw in saw McCrorie get caught on the wrong side of the ball, and give away a free kick by fouling Goncalves. From around 30 yards, Kyle Lafferty lashed in an effort that is as good a strike as you’ll see. The former Gers man didn’t celebrate, despite the excellence of his effort.
Pretty much straight from the kick-off, Hearts created a great chance. Goncalves slipped through Callachan, but under pressure from Wilson and Jack, his shot was poor and easily saved.
After this, Hearts created a couple of chances. From one of those, we had a bizarre moment of refereeing. A free kick from Hearts just evaded Berra and was collected by Foderingham. His early pass to Candeias almost found the Portuguese wide man, but the Hearts defender got in front of him. As the ball was traveling towards the Hearts area, their keeper came out to deal with it, and looked to handle the ball outside of his area. Craig Thompson turned to his linesman for assistance, as his view was blocked, but nothing was given.
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Another chance for Hearts saw Walker skew a shot wide after some good play. It was Rangers who would score next, and on the balance of play it was deserved.
Ross McCrorie found Morelos with his back to goal and a defender very tight on him. Using his strength, Morelos turned the defender and found Miller making a great run. The veteran striker’s shot was deflected over the keeper and bounced into the net. On 42 minutes, the game was level again.
Just before halftime, 16 year old Cochrane of Hearts had a good effort from distance, but it was comfortably saved by Foderingham. The teams went in level at the break, and the feeling was that Rangers had the momentum.
That was carried into the second half, something that’s been an issue for Rangers of late. A few efforts could have led to more, but the lead was finally taken on the 65th minute. Some hard work on the right saw the ball break for Tavernier. His cross was perfect, and found Miller on the run who nodded it into the back post. The celebration from all the players, including substitutes, showed just how much that goal meant to the squad.
Seven minutes later, it was 3-1. Miller found himself in space deep in his own half, and picked out Windass behind the full back with a lovely pass. Windass had the time and composure to cut inside onto his left foot and beat the keeper at his near post. After so many missed chances in recent games, it was clear it was a huge relief to the player to get a goal.
After that, Rangers largely saw out the game. Candeias and Morelos were denied with long range efforts, but in truth Hearts had little to offer by that stage.
For me, this was Rangers best performance of the season. We will play better, and potentially have had moments of better football in other games. Over 90 minutes though, we’ve not been as consistent as we showed on Saturday. When you consider the players who were missing, and the disruption to the team, it was a cracking effort from all involved.
Did you enjoy the game on Saturday? Tweet us @rangersnewsuk with your thoughts!
Foderingham, Tavernier, John, Wilson, Jack, Miller (Barjonas, 84) Windass (Hardie, 90), Morelos (Herrera, 87), Candeias, Holt, McCrorie.
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Hodson, Kranjcar, Bates.
McLaughlin, Smith, Souttar, Berra, Walker (Milinkovic, 52), Lafferty, Callachan, Grzelak, Moore (Nowak, 69), Cochrane (Stockton 69), Goncalves.
SUBS NOT USED: Hamilton, Brandon, Henderson, McDonald.