Unbeaten Run Continues Against Partick Thistle

Rangers kept up their unbeaten run under Pedro Caixinha with a 2-0 win against a Thistle side who struggled to offer much of note.

We started slowly, with loose passes and very little created in the first 20 minutes by either side. A cracking save by the Thistle keeper from a Danny Wilson header seemed to wake us up, though, and better chances were created, notably a great ball from McKay which Miller couldn’t bring down as well as he liked to be through on goal. There were a number of long shots from Toral which were miles off target, and our midfield was dominating the game, but it took some lovely football, played at a quicker tempo than we’d shown, to free up Tavernier on the right who crossed a great ball in for Miller to nod home and open the scoring.

Despite creating a couple of good chances, it was clear McKay wasn’t having a good game, and one loose pass from him led to Thistle’s best chance, a shot hit from an acute angle which Foderingham covered well. Straight away, Dodoo was sent back out to warm up, and you knew McKay wasn’t seeing the game out.

The second half was much better than the first, with the game being played at a quicker tempo with fewer longer balls. McKay was replaced by Dodoo at half time and the latter drove at the full-back every time he got the ball. Whilst nothing came of it, his confidence was encouraging. Jason Holt, easily Man of the Match, was excellent in breaking up the play and keeping us on the front foot, and that allowed Hyndman and Toral to influence the game further forward. We got some luck with a throw-in decision which led to both the loanees combining for a cracking goal, with Hyndman beating a few players before squaring Toral for a good finish. After the second goal, the game largely played out with Rangers dominating possession, the Thistle keeper making some good saves, and the result was never in doubt. Another clean sheet for our largely makeshift and inexperienced defence, and probably the easiest of the three so far.

Despite plenty of positives, the main chat seemed to surround McKay and his poor performance, which follows a couple of games where he hasn’t been at his best. There are accusations of a lack of effort, or that his head has been turned by a move. I’m personally of the opinion that there’s no way to tell what it is – we have a relatively inexperienced young player, our most creative by quite some distance in terms of chances, who is playing for a team with a new manager in a set-up which is different to the one which helped McKay flourish, and who is currently involved in contract talks which seemingly haven’t started very well. All of that alone could be having an impact, never mind any potential personal issues we wouldn’t be privy to. Hopefully, we’ll give him the time and backing to get back to his best, because we’re a far better team when he plays well.

Elsewhere in the league, Ross County drew 2-2 with Celtic in a game we haven’t heard the end of yet due to outrageous diving and Scott Brown being red carded. Celtic weren’t great, which will see many get excited about our chances on Sunday, but it’s a game which has no bearing on how the semi-final will go, especially as the SFA make an absolute a*se of it again with regards to the appeals panel. Dundee sacked Paul Hartley due to a 2-0 home defeat to Hamilton meaning the Dens Park side have lost seven games on the bounce, and now sit in the relegation playoff spot. Motherwell beat Inverness 4-2 to join Hamilton at two points above Dundee, and to leave Inverness five points behind Dundee in last spot. Kilmarnock and Hearts played out a 0-0 draw that was about as exciting as this paragraph, and St Johnstone lost 2-1 at home to Aberdeen to leave us nine points behind Derek McIness’ side with the five post-split games to go. Third now looks pretty secure, but second seems beyond us with so few games left.

And now we get the build up to the double-header against Celtic, starting with the semi-final on Sunday at Hampden. When it comes to games against that lot at Hampden, we have a pretty strong record, regardless of the circumstances, but I don’t believe the gap has ever been bigger in terms of quality. I’d include last season in that as well, where we beat a Celtic side badly hampered by a poor manager, and on reflection carried a lot of luck to do so. We’ll have a manager getting his first experience of this fixture, and most likely be playing at least one youngster in defence if not two, so our underdog status is fully confirmed and should not be ignored. We go in to the game with hope, whilst expectation suggests a loss.

Still, we’ve got Kenny Miller…