Rangers had to dig deep to get a win at Ross County yesterday, but it wasn’t nearly as close or as difficult as the narrative suggests…
Playing poorly but still picking up all three points is characteristic of a team seemingly picked by the football gods themselves to succeed. It was no better demonstrated than last season’s charge by Liverpool to their first Premier League title when they could be losing, and looking objectively awful, but the air of inevitability was so strong you just knew they’d find a way. The ultimate plot armour.
Of course, you’ve probably heard about this with Celtic this season as well, playing poorly but digging deep and finding a way to win. Well, except in Europe of course. In any case, you’ll probably have heard it about Rangers also, at least in regards to yesterday’s game against Ross County.
It finished 2-0 and, despite Jon McLaughlin seemingly going for a burger at half time and never returning, it was far from Rangers finest performance. A first half penalty, providing James Tavernier’s 8th goal in 8 games and more fuel for the green-clad conspiracy theorists on Twitter, looked like it was going to be the only difference between the teams. Chances came and went until Brandon Barker, with yet another Ianis Hagi assist, stepped up to the mark to seal the deal.
Nonetheless, this was far from textbook Rangers. From the absolute highs of stomping giants Galatasaray in the Europa League on Thursday to the middling lows of struggling to put Ross County to bed on Sunday, why the distinction?
Well a lot of it has to do with Thursday, actually. It’s only a few days later and it’s a completely different type of game, in the end. It’s fair to suggest that Ross County almost immediately after Europa League could have been a banana skin, much as St Johnston nearly was for Celtic – but for the last few minutes. No matter how much Steven Gerrard may pump the side up for it, you have to imagine Ross County were all the more motivated. Small team mentality, as it were.
In fact, a lot of it is our own perception as well. Rangers played seemingly much better against Galatasaray because it was unexpected, while the opposite was true yesterday. Even more than usual even. If we were that good against Gala, then the Staggies would get rolled over, right? Football rarely works that way, but at least it’s the rational approach.
Looking at things objectively, it wasn’t a poor game by any means nor do I see this as an example of the aforementioned “playing badly but finding a way to win.” The statistics never tell the full story, but it’s pretty hard to deny that having 72% possession is absolutely overwhelming. How about passes, Rangers made more than Ross County – 632 compared to 244 – yet still managed over 25% better pass success at a remarkable 86%.
That doesn’t leave much room for many errors on the Light Blues part. Indeed, Rangers made no official errors, were dispossessed only 4 times despite all that possession and gave Ross County almost nothing to work with in general. 14 corners vs 2, 15 shots vs 4, no matter what way you look at it, the Gers were all over them. This all comes down to the same issue we’ve discussed before, Rangers aren’t taking their chances enough. One or two more of those shots ending in goals and nobody would be talking about us “playing badly but finding a way to win.”
In the end, I think it’s if every game from now until the end of the season ended the same we’d all be happy, more than happy, even. They won’t though, so it’s important Gerrard focuses on getting the most out of our possession and chances. We may not have found ourselves scraping a potentially undeserved win yet, but it will happen, until then let’s do it comprehensively and without doubt.