Full steam ahead as Light Blue Express picks up momentum

IT is still just three short weeks since Rangers recorded their first away win in the Irn-Bru Third Division.

Loading Comments
Share
Print
Lee McCulloch helped himself to two goals at the weekend
Lee McCulloch helped himself to two goals at the weekend

So despite that win at Clyde, it is too soon – far too soon – to state confidently that the Light Blues have overcome their problems on the road.

Nevertheless, there were more signs in the 6-2 victory over East Stirlingshire that Ally McCoist's team is progressing nicely. Specifically, there were indications that his charges are coping with the physicality they routinely face on their travels.

The Gers were once again down to their bare bones at Ochilview – Emilson Cribari, Kyle Hutton, Sebastien Faure and Ross Perry joined long-term absentees Francisco Sandaza and David Templeton on the sidelines.

McCoist had to field a makeshift defence that comprised of Lee McCulloch, his leading goalscorer, playing alongside young Chris Hegarty at centre-half. Having toiled against Peterhead, Berwick Rangers, Annan Athletic and Stirling Albion away in the league, it was far from ideal.

Yet, the league leaders performed with assurance, maturity and, at times, flair to triumph and maintain their two-point

cushion over nearest rivals Elgin City.

Yes, the red carding of German midfielder Philipp Zufle for a shocking foul on Kevin Kyle after half an hour aided the visitors' greatly. Their numerical advantage ultimately showed as John Coughlin's part-timers tired in the latter stages.

They leaked three goals in that time. Still, after the ignominies suffered at Balmoor, Shielfield, Galabank and, worst of all, Forthbank, it was a very welcome performance and result for the Ibrox club.

Given their crippling injury situation – they were missing more than half of their outfield players – it was rather impressive.

The way Rangers also dealt with the committed approach of their hosts, in particular, pleased their delighted manager.

Fraser Aird, Robbie Crawford, Barrie McKay, Lewis Macleod, Kal Naismith and Hegarty appear to be, slowly but surely, coming of age at this level.

But it is not just the kids who have needed to adapt to the rough and tumble of life in the Third Division.

It has also been a severe shock to the system to more experienced campaigners like Neil Alexander, Ian Black, Andy Little, McCulloch, Dean Shiels, Lee Wallace and Kyle.

Black did very well not to react to the provocation he was subjected to – much of it in the clear view of referee and his assistants – both on and off the ball on Saturday.

For an individual who is often labelled as a hatchet man, it showed tremendous maturity. It augurs well for the remainder of the Third Division campaign.

As, for that matter, did the personal displays of the Rangers side as a whole against East Stirlingshire.

Despite playing in defence, McCulloch took his tally for the season to 19 – moving him nine goals ahead of Stuart Leslie of Elgin City in the Third Division scoring charts with a brace of well-taken penalties.

Kyle, Little, Naismith and Wallace all joined their captain on the scoresheet. It was the most goals the Glasgow giants have scored away from home this season and their largest haul in the league.

"The attitude of my players was absolutely first class," said McCoist. "We are playing these games at a far higher tempo now.

"There is more belief there. Our attitude in the last couple of away trips has been better. But we have to continue to perform.

"If we give the opposition any sniff of weakness they will come for us.

"I don't want to start counting chickens. We have a tough away game against one of the better sides in the league at Elgin next week.

"But the last two away games have been pleasing in terms of results, scoring goals and attitude."

Kyle's strike may have been a simple tap-in from a couple of yards out. But it was one of the most important goals the he has netted in his long and eventful career.

The former Kilmarnock and Scotland forward has been dogged by serious injury problems in the last two years. At one low point Kyle did not believe he would ever play again.

His first goal since he scored the winner for Hearts in the new year Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle last year is sure to live long in his memory – not to mention it is his first goal for Rangers on his first start.

It may also inspire the front- man to the sort of feats in front of goal that convinced McCoist to take a gamble on him when he was hurriedly putting his Rangers team together.

The down side for the Ibrox side were the two goals they conceded to Kevin Turner and Paul Quinn, with the latter burying a spot-kick after McCulloch had brought down Nathan Shepherd.

McCoist added: "While I was delighted to score six I was disappointed to lose two goals. The first goal came from slack defending and the second a poor pass."

Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

107527

Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email news@eveningtimes.co.uk
Games news:

Putting the world to rights

Gail's Gab

How my view of the police has changed

Times Out

Entertainment

Lifestyle

TV Advert
Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat Cubie’s job is to find and share with you the fabulous things the city has to offer, from gigs to gastro.

Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You Couldn't Make This Up

Twin problems have put years on me.

Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus

Columnist Michelle McManus is Sussed in the City, and loves to chat about anything and everything.