Rangers finally managed to get a third win in a row this season with a 2-1 win over Ross County. The performance wasn’t great, but the resolve of the team was encouraging. The win kept Rangers in second place and continued some of the momentum from the Aberdeen double header.
The starting side saw Bruno Alves replace Bates, and Candeias come in for the suspended Ryan Jack. Surprisingly, Candeias was asked to play in the role Jack would have, rather than his natural wide position.
The game started with both sides struggling to create good chances. The only real shot at goal in the first 10 minutes was a Kenny Miller effort which went wide. The Rangers formation meant that players like Pena, Windass and Miller were all very close to each other as Ross County weren’t leaving much space. As such, a lot of attacks would break down due to players being crowded out. Crosses would be cut out due to numbers in the box, one in particular from Windass almost finding Pena in a good area.
On the 10th minute, Ross County took the lead with the first real attack they had. Declan John tried to drive forward, and lost possession. Jason Naismith ran at the Rangers defence, and a weak challenge from Wilson let him get to the byline. His cross was excellent, inbetween Alves and Foderingham at the near post, and Craig Curran nodded it home. There were a few mistakes by Rangers throughout, but overall credit should be given to Ross County for a good goal.
In recent matches when Rangers have conceded first, they’ve struggled to maintain their composure. The fans were clearly worried the same would happen again. Added to that was the way Ross County spoiled the game, with numbers behind the ball and no easy forward passes. Alves and Wilson spent a lot of time trying to open the game up with possession, but County were very disciplined.
Rangers did create a couple of chances, though. A deflected Candeias cross fell to the feet of Tavernier, and he drove into the box. His right-foot shot was well saved by Fox, who managed to push it away from Pena and Miller following in. Later in the half, Miller had a great chance as John and Holt combined well on the left. The cutback fell to Miller less than 10 yards from goal, but his left-foot effort was initially slowed by a defensive block then saved yet again. The last real effort of the half came from Windass with a low shot from distance that Fox was equal to again.
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Halftime came with the score still 1-0 to County, and many fans showed their frustration. Despite their best efforts, Rangers were struggling to get sustained pressure, and attacks would break down due to poor passing or decision making.
Graeme Murty decided to make a change at halftime, replacing Pena with Morelos. He also asked Candeias and Windass to move wide as the formation changed. This allowed the players a bit more space to run at the defenders, and the change was proven to be a good one.
Only a couple of minutes into the half, Morelos missed a great chance. Declan John done well to beat the defender and whipped in a great low cross. The height of the ball was a little awkward, but it looked easier to score than to miss. Morelos couldn’t steer it in the correct direction, and it went wide.
The change in the approach meant that Candeias, who had played poorly first half, was much more effective, and it was him who set up Morelos for the equaliser on 59 minutes. Miller won the ball in the County half, and his touch sent Candeias clear. Only one County defender was back and kept everyone onside as Candeias strolled forward, cut it back, and Morelos swept the ball home. The relief of the players was reflected in the stands, and the goal celebrated that bit more as it finally broke Morelos’ scoring drought.
From there, the game opened up a little. Ross County were unlucky with a couple of chances, one in particular a nice move that should have led to more. Foderingham didn’t have much to do as the finishing was poor, but Rangers were stretched as they chased the winner.
A great ball from McCrorie almost sent Windass through, but the challenge on him was a good one. Any sort of mistake by the defender would have led to a penalty. There were numerous corners, and definite threat from the wide players, but Rangers weren’t quite getting enough shots on goal. Barjonas, who replaced the injured McCrorie, put one just wide, but it took a set piece for the deadlock to be broken.
Candeias was fouled on the right wing after a smart turn, and Tavernier went across to take the free kick. His near post ball was met by Windass, and the header well saved. Thankfully, Wilson followed up and nodded the rebound into the net to score his second goal in a week. Rangers had been the better team, but certainly hadn’t played well, so it was a very welcome goal under the circumstances. With only 7 minutes left of the 90, Rangers were ahead.
Rangers had a great chance to extend that lead when Windass was sent through on the left. He cut inside and shot, but his effort deflected wide. The ball should have been squared to Morelos, who was in a great position.
As is always the case, the team who are a goal down and chasing the game got a late chance. A free kick was played into the box, and Foderingham looked set to claim it. However, he bumped into a retreating Wilson, and dropped the ball. With players on the ground and feet flying everywhere, the ball was somehow kept out. It fell to Jamie Lindsay, but he shot wide to the relief of the Ibrox crowd.
Playing poorly and winning is something Rangers have struggled with this season. They’ve needed to be good to win, which always asks a lot of a team who are trying to challenge at the top. The players will know they didn’t play well, but can take confidence from the 3 points and go into the game against Hibs looking to improve and keep the momentum going.
Foderingham; Tavernier, Alves, Wilson, John; McCrorie (Barjonas, 73) Holt, Candeias, Pena (Morelos, 45); Windass, Miller.
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Herrera, Hodson, Kranjcar, Bates.
Fox, Fraser, Naismith, Routis, Kelly (Van der Weg, 75) Gardyne (Dow, 64), Curran, Davies, Lindsay, O’Brien, Eagles (Keillor-Dunn, 53).
SUBS NOT USED: McCarey, Schalk, Draper, McKay.