Preview, Airdrie v Rangers, Excelsior Stadium.

Words: Rory Buchanan

Magnificent Seven

The Hibernian game is a tough one to summarise. While there were obviously a few negatives, there were also plenty of positives to take away. The most important of which was 3 points from a classic 6 pointer. The team was undeniably not at the races, with very few players really getting pass marks. The passing was sloppy, they didn’t play at their usual tempo, and there seemed to be a wave of miscommunication across the field. However, despite not playing to their full potential, the squad managed to secure a vital 3 points in the toughest league fixture of the season. It’s often said the sign of a good team is one which doesn’t always play particularly well, but still manages to secure the 3 points. And it feels unfair to really criticise the performance when you consider the dreadful standard that’s been served up under the previous management regime. A year ago this match would be a heads down affair, with the support – and perhaps the players – dreading a boring, placid defeat.

What was impressive was the reaction of not only the Manager, but the players themselves. Everybody realises that the performance wasn’t good enough, and you really believe them when they say they’ll learn their lessons from it. Under Ally McCoist the Ibrox faithful were used to seeing absolute dross week-in week-out, and after every game Ally would repeat the same mantra, “We can play better. We will play better.” They very rarely did.

Of course, the most impressive aspect of the game was a 65th minute free-kick from right-back James Tavernier. Tavernier has taken to Scottish football like a microwaved egg to Kirk Broadfoot’s face, sauntering through every game he’s played so far. And his latest screamer was arguably his best yet. At a relatively tight angle, the Englishman managed to curve a 20 yard free-kick right into the top of the net, and the release of nerves and excitement from the support showed not just how important the goal was, but also how much they appreciated its quality. It’s surely a contender for goal of the season. Many Rangers fans are struggling to understand how Tavernier hasn’t managed to secure a club in the higher divisions of English football. What is certain, is that this has been to Rangers considerable benefit. If the right-back has the consistency to match his quality, he’ll surely earn a decent fee for the Ibrox club in a few years. Or take us to the Champions League final. Delete as appropriate.

Either way, Sunday is done. 3 more points have been collected, and the focus now turns to a League Cup game on Wednesday evening at the Excelsior Stadium. Airdrieonians go into this match after a fairly inconsistent run. They’ve lost three of their last five fixtures, and won’t expect to take anything from this game. In contrast to that, Mark Warburton is chasing his seventh victory in seven competitive games. So far he’s had the finest start of any new Rangers Manager since Bill Struth. Food for thought, but for now I won’t say any more than that.

Key Players

Martyn Waghorn – With that in mind I assume Warburton will field a slightly different starting XI to the one which took to the pitch on Sunday. Normally I’d expect Nicky Clark to be given the go ahead as the lone striker, however due to Waghorn’s lack of goals the Manager might fancy this as a game to get the confidence up. I touched on it previously in the Hibs preview, but I feel the big striker needs to start taking his chances better. While he’s excellent at holding up play, he takes far too many touches and sometimes needs to just shoot on sight. Ideally, Rangers will bring in another striker, hopefully one with an eye for the back of the net, and if that’s the case I’d be eager to see Waghorn pushed onto the right wing. I think he could be very dangerous bombing down the line, and it would also help relieve the pressure of being the lone striker. As such, I hope he starts this game on the wing.

Nathan Oduwa – As a young, skilful playmaker, Oduwa has a real chance of starting this game, and it’ll hopefully prove to be a fruitful night for the on-loan midfielder. He’s presumably starting to understand the responsibilities and pressures that come for playing for the Light Blues, and despite showing flashes of talent in his previous appearances, he’ll really need to put in a solid performance for the entirety of the match. While he didn’t lose the ball once during the Hibs game, his forward thinking play will need to be more productive. It’s all well and good showing your skill with the ball, but he needs to start getting beyond the opposition and making effective passes into the forward line.

Dean Shiels – Should the Northern Irishman get into the starting XI he’s going to have to prove why he should even be considered for the bench going forward this season. In previous years, Shiels has had the potential to disappear during games, and though he’s seemed more alive during his performances so far, his general lack of talent is showing him up in a strong midfield. Already Andy Halliday and Jason Holt have come in and proved themselves to be comfortable in Warburton’s preferred 3 man midfield. Holt in particular has taken arguably Shiels ideal position, and has rewarded his manager with 5 assists and 1 goal during his 6 matches for the club. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Shiels follow Darren McGregor out the door before the window closes. In saying that, Warburton has played Shiels in almost every game so he obviously sees something. It’s time for Dean to show the Rangers fans this too.

Predicted Line-Up

Foderingham, Tavernier, Ball, Wilson, Wallace, Halliday, Oduwa, Shiels,

Waghorn, Clark, Walsh

Predicted Score

Rangers 3 – 0 Airdrieonians

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