Rangers were taught a brutal lesson by second division play-off challengers Stenhousemuir in last night’s cup replay at Shielfield. Rangers pulverised the Warriors in a 1-1 draw at Ochilview on 3rd November. Last night they pulverised us 5-2. Now that’s what I call a proper pulverising.
The Warriors were stronger, sharper and infinitely more lethal in front of goal – compare and contrast to Rangers’ struggles this season. If Ian Little still believes we don’t need reinforcements up front to support the excellent Darren Lavery, he’s either in denial or watching a different game to the rest of us. Gemmell and Keane were dangerous throughout for the Warriors, bagging three goals between them and showing the Rangers’ support what we need at Shielfield – a strikeforce that will notch a minimum of 20 goals a season between them. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable ambition.
Rangers have shipped 8 goals in their last two games, and have’nt won any of their seven fixtures on the road this season. With a just over a quarter of the league season gone they sit in 7th place in the league and their two best performances have come in one-all draws. If that isn’t causing the management team some sleepless nights and shaking up the boardroom comfort zone, then it should be. Our home support has shown an encouraging upward trajectory this season, in part down the The Rangers bounce, but also because people believe we have a talented and capable squad at Shielfield. That faith is not being rewarded with an irresistible march up the league. Rangers remain anchored in lower midtable, and it’s not long before some wag suggests they change their name to “Berwick Rangers Sixth”, or worse. The 3rd division is a decent league this year; Rangers haven’t had much luck, and they have been on the wrong end of too many appalling refereeing performances, but all the excuses in the world cannot disguise the lack of progress towards this season’s primary objective of a play-off spot. Patience is running thin on the terraces and supporters need to see some demonstrable signs of improvement. That should include addressing weaknesses up front and in goal, and keeping a hold of Dougie Brydon at least until the season ends. The big man had another small army of admirers watching him last night, with scouts from Leeds, Stoke and Boro in attendance.
And so to the action. Rangers made a good start, passing the ball well and hemming the Warriors in. Lee Currie gave them an 11th minute lead with a consummate penalty after Noble was fouled with his back to goal. Brydon missed a free header from a corner, while Lavery and Notman had good chances to extend Rangers lead during a period when they looked comfortably in charge. That all changed in the 29th minute when Bejaoui dropped a clanger, allowing Smith to get a head on a ball that should have been the keepers’ all the way. The error drained Rangers’ confidence but they held out until the break, before a 3 goal blitz in an eight minute spell buried Rangers’ hopes of a comeback. A streetwise Warriors side sensed Bejaoui’s uncertainty under the high ball and crowded him out at corners, a tactic that reaped rich rewards with goals from Gemmell and a Kean double. A briiliant Lavery strike, running from deep onto Currie’s classy through ball to fire low past the Warrior’s keeper in the 66th minute stoked up vain hopes of a recovery, but Smith killed those hopes off with a goal from an incorrectly taken free kick that ref Robertson allowed to stand. It should have been chalked off but would have made no difference. Currie’s red card for a petulant kick at Smith was the final insult. The referee was dreadful; having unleashed a deluge of cards at Ochilview, he took the opposite approach this time exemplified by the Warrior’s 7 kicking the ball away to waste time, going for his card and then deciding not to issue a dserved booking. Gutless and clueless.
This result and the dearth of wins this season makes the Annan match on Saturday a high-pressure, must-win game for everyone connected with Rangers. I still believe that this is a Rangers side with some very good players, and that Little and Horn are the right men for the job, but they need some wins, and preferably a run of them. I would also hope that if they believe new players are needed to boost their playoff hopes, the Board will back them.
Bejaoui 4; Jacobs 6; Brydon 7; Townsley 6; Hoskins 4; Gray 6; Currie 5; Notman 6; Janczyk 5; Lavery 7; Noble 5
Crowd – 402