The performances of Andy Halliday at left-back this season have been mightily impressive. Tonight, however, could be a defining moment for him.
It seems to generally be accepted that Borna Barisic will just step right in when fit. The Croatian international is being troubled with a persistent knee injury that occurred before the last international break.
But, in truth, Halliday as it stands does not deserve to be dropped when you take into account his current form. He’s now played in four of Rangers’ last five matches, but has more recently been tossed in at left-back.
Despite also being a capable holding midfielder, left-back is a position Halliday knows well. He operated there at times during his days at Livingston and Bradford City. You can tell with the composure and steel he brings to that position.
Barisic is the superior player, and we would all acknowledge that. But it wouldn’t be great for morale if Halliday wasn’t able to keep his spot despite the good performances.
The importance of a big display
Another top display tonight in Moscow could and should cement his place there for now. Barisic will also take a few weeks to get up to scratch in what has been a frustrating period for him. When he returns, he should have to earn his spot just as Halliday has.
Jon Flanagan was given several outings at left-back. He initially looked like being Barisic’s natural replacement, and fans loved his aggression. But his failure to deal with both Gary Mackay-Steven and Greg Stewart respectively cost him his place.
The jersey is now on Halliday, and he deserves his chance to keep it. Playing players who are in-form is vital to consistent results. The moment Halliday then drops his levels, Barisic can attempt to play his way back into the side.
Competition for places is only competition when it is indeed a competition. Giving Barisic the jersey back once more would be detrimental to that notion.
Of course, if Halliday does put in a dreadful display tonight, then that puts a different spin on things. The fact is, however, he hasn’t put a foot wrong yet.
St Mirren had to stop attacking down the right flank last weekend and focus more on James Tavernier. This was partly down to how composed and solid Halliday was on the day.
He’s in a rich vein of form once more, and it’s time that was backed in the coming weeks.