Steve makes a case for the Rangers defence

THE Rangers defence trudged off the Ibrox pitch on Saturday with the jeers of many of their own fans ringing in their ears.

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Steve Simonsen pulled off a great save on his debut against Forfar last week to help Rangers keep their unbeaten league record going this season
Steve Simonsen pulled off a great save on his debut against Forfar last week to help Rangers keep their unbeaten league record going this season

Those of them, that is, who had bothered staying inside the stadium until full-time in the SPFL League One match with Arbroath.

Many in the 41,207-strong crowd had seen enough long before referee Barry Cook blew the final whistle.

Ally McCoist's out-of-sorts side had gifted their part-time rivals the lead not once but twice with their slipshod defending during a dramatic 90 minutes.

David Banjo put the visitors in front from close range in only the second minute and Bobby Linn did so again with a well-taken strike in the second half.

And it was only thanks to a late penalty award - which visiting manager Paul Sheerin was deeply unhappy with - that Rangers eventually won the game 3-2.

The fact they edged 23 points clear at the top of the third-tier table was largely ignored by fans such was their unhappiness with the performance.

The Ibrox club is expected to win well, not just win, in every domestic game they take part in and the showing fell well short of the standards which are demanded.

Yet, the display at the back at the weekend was uncharacteristic.

Indeed, it was only the second time in 22 outings in the league this season that they have conceded more than one goal.

The only other time it has happened was against Brechin City at Glebe Park back in October when they let in three goals in the first half.

And that is the one time in 11 matches on the road in the third tier that the Glasgow club have had to pick the ball out the back of the net.

In total, McCoist's men have recorded shut-outs on 15 occasions in the league and in 21 games in all competitions.

Steve Simonsen, the experienced English goalkeeper who made his Rangers debut against Forfar Athletic at Station Park last week, has been greatly impressed with how the rearguard has functioned this term.

Having played at Everton, Stoke City and Sheffield United in his long career, the 35-year-old knows a decent defence when he sees one.

After all, during his time at Goodison Park he played behind a backline that comprised Michael Ball, Gary Naysmith, Alan Stubbs and Davie Weir.

Simonsen is confident that normal service will be resumed by Sebastien Faure, Bilel Mohsni, Lee McCulloch and Lee Wallace against Brechin at Ibrox this weekend.

The stopper feels centre-backs Mohsni and McCulloch are hugely important to their side both in defence and in attack.

He said: "What we have seen from Bilel and Lee on the pitch this season shows that, in a way, they complement each other.

"Obviously Lee is a very full-blooded player who has a lot of experience in the game.

"He has played at the very highest level and his presence alongside Mohsni has been inspirational for the team this season.

"I think they have made a really good solid pairing. The leadership of Lee gives Bilel a bit of room to play football.

"Bilel likes to get forward and play football and that has showed in his performances. He got another goal in the game against Forfar last week to take his tally for the season to eight.

"It is not just Bilel who gets himself on the scoresheet either. Lee does as well. He scored a penalty to win the game at the weekend and now has 13 goals to his name.

"To have scored over 20 goals between them is impressive for two centre-backs.

"I think that has been a big factor in the team's success this season."

It is Mohsni and McCulloch's defensive abilities, though, that impress Cammy Bell's understudy the most.

And the keeper, who produced arguably the save of the season against Forfar when he palmed clear a defelected Mohsni header late on, knows that is their most important function.

He said: "We are into the second half of the season now. We have had a lot of games to play and that partnership has developed.

"The clean sheets that we have had this season and the small number of goals that we have conceded have shown they are up for the fight at the back as well.

"They have been a very tight, solid pairing and provide a platform for the entire side. I am sure the game at the weekend was just a blip."

Football

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