Rangers criminal on return to scene of the crime

SOMETIMES there are just no excuses, occasions where the defence simply doesn't have a case.

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Ally McCoist and Ian Durrant were less than impressed with what they saw last night
Ally McCoist and Ian Durrant were less than impressed with what they saw last night

Last night was certainly one of them for Rangers as they, once again, failed to emerge from Forthbank with a victory.

The lowest point of their campaign in the Irn-Bru Third Division came in October when they suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at the hands of a Stirling Albion side that was rooted to the foot of the table .

Ally McCoist's men might have managed to fair slightly better on their return to the same venue last night by notching a 1-1 draw, but it has to go down as another shocking result with a performance to match from the Ibrox men.

Some may try to claim it is difficult not to go through the motions on occasions when you boast a 22-point lead at the top of the table and are cruising towards the title – but that is utter nonsense.

Even in second gear, the team McCoist sent out to take on Stirling Albion should have been more than good enough to bag three points and to do it in relatively comfortable fashion.

It was a starting line-up which included the likes of David Templeton, Lee Wallace, Ian Black and Dean Shiels – four players who are considered to be more than good enough to be top players in the SPL.

Yet you wouldn't have thought so as they all went through the motions. It wasn't bad luck and it wasn't a bad day at the office. It just wasn't good enough. There wasn't enough quality and most certainly enough of a desire to win the game.

After the break, there was practically nothing to separate the teams. Stirling gave as good as they got. They more than deserved their share of the spoils.

It was by no means a smash-and-grab effort, they were actually pushing for a winner at one stage.

And if the penny hasn't dropped by now for one or two of the Rangers players then it never will. How many of them will still be there by the time the club, if expected, progress through the divisions and into the SPL? Not many on the evidence of last night.

Not all, of course, deserve to be criticised. One man who certainly doesn't is last night's goalscorer Andy Little.

McCoist spent the summer assembling the firepower he believed was needed to enable Rangers to blast their way out of the Third Division as he signed three attackers before their transfer embargo was imposed.

But the Ibrox manager has been reaping the rewards of unearthing a surprise weapon in his pursuit of goals this season in the shape of Little as he again found the net.

Having landed seasoned SPL goalscorers in the likes of Shiels, Francisco Sandaza and Kevin Kyle at the beginning of the season, most would have expected the new recruits to be topping the Rangers scoring charts.

However, the trio have found themselves upstaged by a player who has struggled to make any real impact at the club in previous years when he was deployed in a variety of positions without any great success.

Whether it has been the step down the divisions or simply a regular run in the starting line-up that has made the difference is up for debate, but what certainly can't be questioned is the Northern Ireland internationalist's impact on Rangers' season.

His opening goal in last night's 1-1 draw took him to 22 for the season – joint top of the Ibrox scoring charts with Lee McCulloch – it will be interesting to see if he can maintain that next season.

McCoist decided to make a couple of changes to his starting line-up after Saturday's 3-1 win over Berwick Rangers by replacing Barrie McKay and Ross Perry with Kal Naismith and Emilson Cribari.

Having suffered their one league defeat of the campaign at Forthbank earlier in the season, Rangers were keen to extract revenge over their Third Division rivals.

With Little and Shiels leading the line while supported by Naismith and David Templeton, it looked probable the visitors would come racing out of the traps looking for an early goal. And so it proved.

Shiels appeared to have played Little through on goal but the striker was flagged for offside before Templeton broke into the penalty area and forced the Stirling defence to take evasive action to deny the former Hearts man.

But Rangers did take the lead after 22 minutes when Little managed to time his through run to perfection, latching on to Shiels pass before rounding goalkeeper David Crawford and stroking the ball into the empty net.

Lee Wallace then blew a more than reasonable chance to double his team's advantage when he shot wildly off target. At that stage it looked as though it would only be a matter of time before Rangers would conjure up a second.

For reasons known only to themselves, however, they failed to maintain that enthusiasm or desire. And that offered Stirling a way back into the game and they came up with an equaliser in the 51st minute.

The impressive Kieran McAnespie delivered a terrific free-kick which was headed past Neil Alexander and into the back of the net by stopper Ross Forsyth. The defending was woeful – he had acres of space to power his effort past Alexander.

Even that didn't prompt much of a response from Rangers. Perhaps McCoist's post-match team-talk may just about ensure one at the weekend.

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