Rangers remain on Celtic’s heels in the race for the Premiership title but the Gers made it much harder than it needed to be as they ground out a 1-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park tonight.
There was one change for the Light Blues as Leon Balogun replaced Fashion Sakala in the starting XI, allowing John Lundstram to return to a more familiar midfield role while Scott Arfield was pushed further forward to accommodate the gap left by Sakala.
While the Rangers support made their feelings on the friendly with Celtic in Australia abundantly clear, Glen Kamara was scoring the opener for the Light Blues after only three minutes.
The Finn got on the end of a fantastic pass from Alfredo Morelos before a composed finish from Kamara to fire home and give Rangers the lead.
After taking the lead, Rangers looked far from assured defensively when St Johnstone pushed forward, Callum Hendry, in particular, causing problems for the visitors in the opening 20 minutes.
However, it was Rangers who came closest to scoring the second of the night when Morelos saw his effort cannon off the base of Parish’s near post.
The Colombian was the Gers’ biggest attacking threat, with Kamara a surprising foil for El Bufalo as he looked to get his name on the scoresheet and double Rangers’ lead.
It was far from inspiring stuff from Rangers as the game lurched towards the half-hour mark with van Bronckhorst’s side looking leggy and one-paced; Calvin Bassey picking up a yellow card for a lazy foul wide on the right-hand side of the Light Blues’ area.
The Gers continued to allow themselves to be sucked into a scrappy game against a team battling for Premiership survival and it was hard to tell just which side was at which end of the table for long spells of the opening 45.
The restart saw Rangers have a couple of chances in quick succession, Morelos and Aribo both firing their efforts at Parish when they probably could have done a bit better.
Much like the weekend draw with Motherwell, there were a number of players in the Gers side who looked as though they could do with substituted – while Rangers’ overall performance suggested some fresh legs would be a big benefit.
Just as the game approached the hour mark, Scott Arfield thought he’d made it 2-0, Aribo picking the Canadian out, but his effort went agonisingly wide of the far post as St Johnstone breathed a sigh of relief.
Van Bronckhorst’s continuing resistance to using his many, many substitutes when his players are clearly out in their feet was every bit as predictable as it is worrying; and you couldn’t help get the feeling you’d seen this movie before.
Whether it is down to the manager not having faith in those on the bench or not seeing how badly things needed freshening up, van Bronckhorstis going to end up seeing it cost him one time too many.
Rangers would have the ball in the net for the second time in the 69th minute, Connor Goldson heading home but the assistant referee’s flag went up for an offside by the former Brighton star.
With the second-half ticking away, the Gers players looked terrified to try and put their foot on the ball and get some control of things as the players on the pitch were every bit as nervy as the fans watching.
Watching the Rangers players struggle their way through the closing stages saw fans longing for the ‘good old days’ of Steven Gerrard’s regular-as-clockwork 60th-minute subs.
St Johnstone saw their opportunity, bringing on a couple of attackers for the final ten minutes, Theo Blair and ex-Ibrox winger Michael O’Halloran to try and exploit the tired Gers’ defence.
However, there was to be no late drama as Rangers fell over the finish line and picked up their first away league win of 2022.
St Johnstone: Parish, Brown, Gordon, McCart, Sang, Butterfield, Hallberg, Gallacher, Crawford, Ciftci, Hendry.
Subs: Sinclair, Cleary, May, O’Halloran, Gilmour, Mahon, Bair, MacPherson, Craig
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey, Kamara, Aribo, Lundstram, Arfield, Kent, Morelos.
Subs: McLaughlin, Zukowski, Barisic, King, Sands, Lowry, Wright, Roofe, Fashion Jr.
Rangers fans have made their feelings perfectly clear about the Celtic clash in Australia with fan media leaders claiming the board are “out of touch”.