Rangers ready to end year of living dangerously on a high

Adminstration, liquidation, booted out of the SPL and star players quitting the club in their droves.

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Ibrox boss Ally McCoist has experienced a tough 12 months
Ibrox boss Ally McCoist has experienced a tough 12 months

As the Light Blue legions enter the dying embers of this year, the pain of the past 12 months will remain etched in their memories for some time.

But Ally McCoist and his players have at least manoeuvred themselves – albeit after some extremely testing examinations – into a position where they can put a foot on the ladder back to where they belong.

A hard-fought 4-2 win over Montrose at the weekend – a match McCoist conceded afterwards was their toughest yet in the Third Division – has them three points clear of Elgin at the top of the table, with two games in hand to come.

One of those will be tomorrow evening against Annan at Ibrox. And, if they can win at Elgin this weekend, and see off Clyde at home on Boxing Day in what is effectively their other match in hand, they will be 12 points clear and have the title more or less wrapped up before the halfway stage, which most of us predicted they would.

It all sounds very straightforward, but, as events at Links Park proved as they clung on at stages under serious threat, it is far from that.

However, a trio of victories and the mission of getting up through the leagues will be well and truly under way.

McCoist believes his team are now finding out what it's like to win ugly in Division Three, and also what it's like to handle the expectations of life at Rangers, no matter which league they are operating in.

"We would probably not have won that game earlier in the campaign," McCoist said as he reflected on the win at Montrose.

"I don't want to tempt fate, just in case we get a bite on the backside down the line, but I do feel as though the team is learning how to win games, and also how to cope with the unique demands they play under at Rangers where you need to win every time you go onto the pitch.

"We have a mixture of new players and younger boys and I always felt it would take time for them to adapt and adjust, but we have done that far more effectively.

"I was delighted with the win at the weekend. Was it our hardest game yet? I'd say yes, and the fact you are asking me the question obviously has me thinking you think it was as well."

Certainly, it's hard to recall Rangers being pushed to the limits like they were by Montrose. They burst from the traps and shot into an early lead through Lloyd Young, before Lee McCulloch's penalty restored the game to level terms.

Even when Rangers raced into a 3-1 lead with two goals in as many minutes from the excellent Kevin Kyle and the ineffective Dean Shiels, the hosts never gave up.

They came snarling back to 3-2 courtesy of a wonder goal from David Gray and then hit the woodwork twice before Robbie Crawford's goal deep into added-on time finally put them away.

"Our defending is a concern," McCoist said, and he had every right to be worried as the rearguard was breached far too easily.

"That's something we will have to address, but at the other end we have scored four goals and probably should have had a few more with the near misses and other things we had going on.

"It was a terrific game, although clearly defences weren't on top, but it is just one of those days when you are glad to get the three points and get out of town if you like."

Of course, the bigger picture is for Rangers to get out of the bottom tier of Scottish football. What the leagues above them look like, what form reconstruction takes, is anyone's guess at the moment.

Whatever happens, McCoist needs to get a few decent players lined up for the end of his registration embargo on September 1 next year as there is no doubt the squad could be found wanting at higher levels.

There are some excellent young players in the ranks – none more so than Barrie McKay – but there is a fragile look about Rangers and at times it must be painful to watch for the punters and the manager.

But they have been used to pain. And the first steps on the long road back to recovery could be well and truly confirmed before their annus horribilis is over.

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