Rangers are spooked by own ghoul

Neil Alexander walked off the Ibrox pitch with his head inside his jumper – even then it could not hide his blushes.

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Neil Alexander had nowhere to hide after his howler
Neil Alexander had nowhere to hide after his howler

Just seconds before he had chucked the ball into his own net to literally throw away two points for Rangers and allow the club's 100% winning record in the league at Ibrox this season to disappear.

As the goalkeeper stared at the turf as Elgin City celebrated their leveller in front of a tiny band of supporters who had made the long journey to Ibrox, there was not one Rangers player, on the pitch or in the dugout, who shouted a word of support to the embarrassed Ibrox shot-stopper.

It will be a moment of solitary hell that he won't forget in a hurry.

For the rest of the mind-boggling 46,000 bodies who braved the sloppy fare on offer, it was a day to confine to history before they had left the stadium.

The Irn-Bru Third Division will not hold too much resistance for Rangers. They should steamroll their way to the title, just as most expect.

But every so often there is a reminder of just how far they have fallen.

The vagaries of lower league football, with all its rough edges, is still capable of throwing a spanner in the works and Saturday's embarrassing 1-1 draw with Elgin was another day for Rangers to forget.

While Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd currently are training at Murray Park given the fact they are on extended winter breaks from the MLS, Ally McCoist could only wonder what the duo might have done to Elgin, given half a chance.

Rangers dominated possession, spent the bulk of the game on the edge of their opponent's box, but still conceded a comical leveller to drop two points.

The draw may very well be rendered insignificant if and when Rangers win the league at a canter, but it is another sign of how much the club lack genuine quality.

Given the numerous chances McCoist's side created against Elgin, they ought to have won the game by a cricket score.

Instead, there was a palpable flatness about Rangers and about Ibrox, as though both players and fans were still nursing a hangover from the New Year festivities as Lewis Macleod's ninth-minute strike was all they had to show for their poor efforts.

Granted, Elgin keeper Joe Malin made a few decent stops and was by far the busier of the two shot stoppers, but it couldn't disguise the fact that Rangers were woefully lightweight in the final third.

They were one-dimensional, too pedestrian and seemed to run out of ideas the longer the game went on.

When Paul Harkins was dismissed, somewhat harshly, in the first period for a foul on Ian Black, most would have expected Rangers to turn the screw on the part-timers; a side they had knocked 14 goals into in the games leading up to this one. It didn't come.

As darkness descended over the stadium and the chill drizzle fell steadily, Elgin made them pay as Alexander fumbled a Stewart Leslie header, juggled the ball from Stewart Duff's return and then allowed it to squirm under his arm and into the net.

McCoist could only kick the ground in frustration, the little successes of recent weeks undermined by a ghastly mix-up during the only time they were required to be organised.

As he looks at his squad, he will know that work is needed if they are to ascend through the leagues. Ironically, it is the kids at the club who seem to offer Rangers the most.

Barrie McKay ran at Elgin when he was introduced to the fray, cutting them open with his pace, but too often his final ball let him down.

Macleod scored a decent goal to give Rangers an early cushion and he is another who has caught the eye this season.

There is a maturity to his play and distribution that bodes well for the future, but the danger for Rangers is that they expect too much from players who are still in their teens.

On current evidence, there is nothing to suggest that this season will not pan out the way that Rangers expect it to. There is no other club in the league who can live with the resources of the Ibrox side and there is little chance they'll be derailed from winning the title.

But there is a huge chasm between the current squad and the one that was at the club just 18 months ago. That is reflected when it comes to the performances that are being churned out in the Third Division. Too often these raise as many questions as they provide answers.


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