Rangers showed spirit and quality in a 3-0 win at McDiarmid Park last night, a result which was the best of the season so far. The game was physical and demanded a lot of our defence. The team stood up to the challenge, and were mentally strong throughout.
The Rangers team was as predicted in our match preview, with Alves replacing McCrorie. Holt came in to the side due to Jack’s suspension. St Johnstone went with a similar shape, but their approach was one of being hard to break down. They looked to win the ball and counter quickly.
In the first minute, Morelos challenged for a long ball and it broke to Pena. His shot from distance was wild, but it was a sign of intent from the Mexican midfielder.
Three minutes into the game, Scougall skinned Windass on the Rangers left and got to the byline. His cutback was cleared by Dorrans, although the ball could have gone anywhere from the way he hit it. St Johnstone got their first corner of 16 in the game, and showed that they held a threat as the ball was knocked back in and required Alves to get across and clear well.
A chance on the 5th minute saw Pena send Candeias away on the break, but his cross for Windass was poor. Rangers were dominating possession, as St Johnstone often let teams do. The game was slowed down by numerous fouls, with St Johnstone getting away with two which should have led to bookings before the 20-minute mark.
In the 22nd minute, Candeias dwelled on the ball and played a poor pass to Dorrans. Murray Davidson won the challenge, and from the break Cummins was played through. His shot was well saved by Foderingham, and it was the first real chance of the game.
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Rangers kept playing with patience and intent, and were able to break the deadlock on 26 minutes. A good ball from Pena sent Windass away, and Rangers were able to keep the ball high up the pitch. Morelos played it wide to Tavernier, and his cross found Pena at the back post for an excellent finish. After a difficult first 5 minutes, Rangers had been the better side and found a moment of quality to make the difference.
From there, Rangers played with more confidence and kept the ball well. On 32 minutes, Candeias was played through, but due to Pena being offside, the decision went against Rangers. Rangers kept the pressure up, with Dorrans lashing a shot wide on 37 minutes after good possession. A couple of minutes later, Morelos put a header over the bar from a Candeias cross.
St Johnstone finished the half strongly. Another knockdown from a corner led to a great chance for Cummins, which he knocked over the bar. Cardoso was forced to clear a good cross at the end of the half. Rangers managed to see off the pressure and went into the break a goal to the good.
Previous games this season have seen Rangers start somewhat slowly in the second half, and that was a concern this time around as well. The team was out a good couple of minutes before the St Johnstone side, which showed which side had more to discuss. The Perth side started the half strongly, with some corners causing concern. Another knockdown had to be cleared, and a tussle between Alves and MacLean saw them claim a penalty. Any award would have been soft, as Alves was simply the stronger of the two.
on 52 minutes, Rangers missed a great chance to extend their lead. A clearance to the edge of the box was won by Windass. The Englishman nodded it to Morelos who held of the defender brilliantly to be through on goal. From around 8 yards, his shot was saved by the right foot of the keeper to go out for a corner.
Just four minutes later, some excellent link up on the right between Tavernier and Candeias got the Portuguese winger into space. His cutback found Pena, who tried to guide the ball into the back post and dragged it just wide. Rangers kept up the pressure, with a Morelos shot deflected over and a Tavernier cross blocked before the 60-minute mark.
On 60 minutes, St Johnstone had a series of corners. The pressure lasted for around 6 minutes, with some excellent crosses defended well. Alves, in particular, was dominant but was booked along with Anderson for a clash in the box before one of the set pieces. When Rangers were finally able to get out of their own box, they quickly reasserted their dominance of possession.
On 71 minutes, the game really turned in Rangers favour as Anderson was booked again for a foul on Morelos. His red card left St Johnstone struggling, although they did create a decent chance four minutes later which was weakly hit into Foderingham’s grasp.
Rangers doubled their lead with the same combination as the first on 77 minutes. Tavernier found some space on the right, and his excellent cross was headed home by Pena. With a 2-0 lead and a man advantage, the Rangers team and fans could relax somewhat.
Graham Dorrans had dominated the midfield battle throughout. He was finally able to get forward more when St Johnstone went down to 10 men. On 84 minutes, he struck the bar with a shot from the edge of the box. Just a minute later, he made it 3-0. Holt found some space inside the box, and his cut-back found Dorrans on the run and the midfielder finished well into the bottom corner.
From there, Rangers saw the game out with some smart possession play and late substitutions. It had been a professional performance with some excellent defending when required, and yet again the team scored a few goals even when the talismanic Morelos was unable to add to his tally for the season. I had personally predicted a difficult night for Rangers, and it certainly wasn’t easy, but the result and overall performance was more comfortable than expected. There were a few players who had their best performance in a Rangers shirt so far, with no failures overall. Much like the Hamilton game, the team showed that they’re willing to fight for results this season. There is still plenty to work on, but it was a very encouraging performance.
Foderingham, Tavernier, Cardoso, Alves, John, Dorrans, Holt, Pena (McCrorie 85’), Candeias, Morelos (Herrera 87’), Windass (Nemane 90’).
Subs not used: Alnwick, Hodson, Barjonas, Dalcio .
Goals: Pena 27’ 78’ Dorrans 84’
Yellows: Windass 41’ John 60’ Alves 64’ Dorrans 80’
Mannus, Shaughnessy, Anderson, Millar (Paton 69’), Davidson, MacLean (Johnstone 81’), Wotherspoon, Comrie, Scougall, Easton, Cummins (Thomson 73’)
Subs not used: Clark, Tanser, Gordon, Craig.
Yellows: Anderson 64’ Paton 80’
Red: Anderson 71’