Rangers won through a hard-fought quarter final 3-1 in extra time against Partick Thistle. The game could have had double the amount of goals, given the chances missed by both sides.
The Rangers starting team contained Carlos Pena for the first time. Alnwick took his place in goals for the cup game, and John started in the place of the injured Wallace. The changes meant a small change in shape, with Pena taking up starting positions in attacks deeper than Miller would.
In the 9th minute, some good play on the right saw the ball lofted back to Pena. His cushioned header seemed perfect for Candeias to volley, but the Portuguese winger took a touch. He was forced back the way and his left foot shot was high and wide. On 15 minutes, Morelos won the ball high up the pitch. A strong run almost led to a good bit of link-up with Pena, but the Thistle defence scrambled it away.
There were more than a few long balls from the back which didn’t lead to anything in the first half hour. Rangers seemed to struggle to find spaces to pass into.
Josh Windass missed an absolute sitter in the 23rd minute. Some good play from Morelos and Pena gave the Colombian some space on the edge of the box. His shot was parried by the keeper, and fell to Windass for a tap-in. He completely mis-kicked the ball with his left foot and the chance was gone.
Thistle missed a good chance on the counter on 28 minutes. A Rangers corner was cleared and Spittal found Sammon on the run. The Thistle forward held off John, and Thistle worked some space on their left. Luckily for Rangers, the cross was overhit.
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Pena was showing some nice touches, with one on the edge of the box making him space for a pass. The ball through just didn’t have quite enough on it.
Some good link-up again between Pena and Morelos found Alfredo facing the Thistle goal in a similar position to his strike on Friday. This time, his shot was blocked.
Thistle got another break, with Spittal again finding Sammon, on the 36th minute. Sammon beat Cardoso and hit a low shot to Alnwick’s near post. A strong right hand from the keeper put it away for a corner.
Alnwick made another good save on 39 minutes, as Thistle got a cross in. A header to Sammon found him inside the six yard box, and his strong header was well saved by Alnwick scrambling across his goal.
43 minutes in, Rangers had a great chance from a Tavernier cross after some brilliant hold-up play by Morelos. The ball across was begging to be tapped in, but no-one was in the 6 yard box to capitalise.
The first half finished goalless, mainly due to poor finishing from Rangers and good goalkeeping from Alnwick. Rangers had been clearly the better side in the first half hour, but Thistle were stronger after that.
On 47 minutes Candeias found Tavernier running on the right. The full-back’s low cross was cut out just as Pena looked to strike. A minute later, Declan John made a great run and cross, but yet again no one was able to get on the end of it.
Some great pressing from Candeias on the 52nd minute meant that Morelos got himself through. From around 16 yards, with the keeper bearing down on him, his shot was just wide of the post.
Declan John was getting forward excellently on the left, and again was sent clear. His cross was cleared for a corner. From the set piece, Candeias found Pena just in front of the near post, and his glancing header went in at the back post. It was a deserved goal, as the pressure from Rangers had been high since the start of the second half.
After the goal, Thistle brought on Doolan for Turnbull to go to a 4-4-2, aiming to play more directly. The game got a little scrappy for five minutes as both teams adjusted to the change. On 63 minutes, Sammon had a shot from just outside the box which Alnwick saved and was cleared for a corner. Rangers cleared the corner, and a slip at the back put Candeias through. He rounded the keeper, but he was slightly off-balance and tried to lift the shot over the chasing defender, and it went over the bar.
Morelos was looking tired around that time of the match, unable to get into positions to hold the ball up. It meant that Rangers weren’t dominating the ball easily. Pena was the first to be substituted, though, coming off for Holt. As is often the way in a cup game, with only a one goal lead, Rangers were starting to get a bit deeper with their defending, which led to Morelos being even more isolated.
On 75 minutes, Alves was replaced by McRorie, and instantly given attention on his right calf muscle. Declan John had also looked like he was struggling, and was replaced by Hodson just a couple of minutes later. The disruptions to the back four led to Thistle getting more of the ball and better pressure. The pressure led to a blocked shot on the 80th minute, and from the corner the ball was bouncing around the box. It fell to Doolan, but came to him quickly, and his shot from 8 yards went over the bar.
The tiredness of Morelos led to a break being slowed down too much which would have sent Windass through. From the turnover, Thistle lashed a long shot high over the bar. Just a minute later, Cardoso brilliantly cut out a cross. From the throw in, a deep cross was knocked down by Sammon and Doolan lashed it home on 89 minutes. With the energy levels looking poor from Rangers, the Thistle team looked to press for a winner.
The final whistle brought around extra time, a seemingly unwelcome 30 minutes given the tiredness of the team and the game at the weekend. Herrera came on for Morelos, as an extra sub is allowed in extra time in this competition. The first real chance of the first half fell to Windass, but an extra touch meant he couldn’t get a shot away.
Rangers looked to have more energy, and made it 2-1 after a few minutes of extra time. A ball inside to Herrera was laid off nicely for Candeias, who took a touch and struck a good left shot through the legs of the defender into the near post.
Rangers made it 3-1 4 minutes later. McRorie won the ball well on the halfway line, and some smart play on the left looked to be yet another missed cross. Candeias picked it up and smartly cut it back to Herrera. He deftly flicked the ball with a backheel which the Thistle defender couldn’t keep out. The Thistle players suddenly looked tired, and Rangers were dominating the game. A series of passes gave Thistle the run around for a couple of minutes as Rangers looked to see out the half.
Thistle became more direct in chasing the game, and were starting to win second balls at the start of the second half of extra time. A loose clearance from Alnwick gave Doolan a chance from distance, but his shot was easily saved. At the other end, Holt and Windass linked up well, but the shot from the former was blocked.
From there, Rangers played some good football and defended strongly. With only 2 minutes to go, some lovely football from Candeias and Tavernier freed up the full back for a shot which was saved at the far post.
Candeias got the final touch of the game with a comical moment, where a right foot shot hit his left foot first. The final whistle ended the cup tie, but in truth, the Herrera goal broke Thistle and Rangers saw the rest of extra time out well. It wasn’t ideal to have the extra 30 minutes, but players like Herrera and McRorie will have gained a lot of confidence from that.
It was a good cup tie, with plenty of positives and just as much to work on. We showed real fight and character to do so well in extra time when looking so tired. The players didn’t seem too happy with the performance overall, and that in itself is a positive.
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