Rangers today begin our assault on the Scottish cup in an attempt to right the wrongs of over a decade since the trophy found itself in Ibrox Stadium.
It has been too long and Rangers simply must win the tournament.
So this challenge begins this Friday evening with a home time against Stirling Albion of League division two. Rangers last played Stirling back in the division three 2012/13 campaign when we drew 0-0 and previously before that 1-1, this can’t be the option this evening! Rangers have come a long way however, now Champions of the country this is a tournament we seek to also return home.
Rangers of course returned to action on Tuesday evening with a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie in a game where we didn’t turn up to anything near our best. It was a disappointing result but a run of 28 points in 30 needs perspective and although a poor result, in seasons long, sometimes it is a point gained.
Rangers were the reason we didn’t win, we didn’t play well, we didn’t control the game and we were punished. However, it is pleasing to see the club have spoken to the Governing bodies to constructively feedback on the refereeing performance of Kevin Clancy, who not for the first time turned in a horrific performance which included an abysmal red card for Ryan Kent.
But that was Tuesday and tonight we must answer back quickly. It is a game we are expected to win, and it is a game we are expected to win well, so in many ways we won’t learn a lot. But what it gives is an opportunity to rotate and give minutes to some players and an opportunity to raise the confidence levels back amongst everyone at the club.
Rangers have made eight changes to the side, Only Tavernier, Goldson and Hagi survive from Tuesday’s starting side. We line up with Jon McLaughlin in goals, James Tavernier captains with Leon Balogun returning beside Connor Goldson and Jack Simpson. Now whether Simpson is at Left back or it’s a three with Tavernier at right wing back and the returning Brandon Barker at left wing back remains to be seen.
In midfield John Lundstram anchors the side with Junino Bacuna and Ianis Hagi beside him. Cedric Itten and Fashion Sakala make up the striking options. How Rangers line up is a puzzler, until it begins, so we will see if it is the familiar 433 or a new 343 formation.
Either way plenty of changes and a chance for a few to shine. Good luck to the much changed team and management this evening.
First half action
Looks 433 with Jack Simpson at left back. Hagi and Bacuna advanced with Lundstram sitting in midfield three with Sakala wide left, Barker wide right and Itten up top.
5 mins – PENALTY CLAIM! Corner comes in, it looks like Itten is being held back, nothing given! Looked clear!
8 mins – Dipping long range effort by Tavernier loops over the bar.
11 mins – SUBSTITUTION – Academy Graduate Alex Lowry comes on for Ianis Hagi who takes a knock in a tackle. A debut for the young man.
17 mins – SITTER! Tavernier plays it across for Itten who seems to bundle the ball towards the goal before Currie scooped it out. It’s a bad ‘miss’ but it looked over the line before Currie got to it, Itten should be making sure though!
20 mins – CLOSE! Albion almost stun Ibrox, Bacuna is slack and the bending effort is not far away. Lazy play from Rangers.
23 mins – Sakala, who looks bright, drives in from the left and pulls his shot wide.
29 mins – Cross from Tav deflects into Keepers hand, Lowry was in there but almost an OG. Rangers just beginning to probe with more purpose.
Straight from kick out John Lundstram gets ball and whistles a shot right down throat of Keeper, decent effort.
30 mins – GOAL! It’s been coming and it’s a debut strike for Alex Lowry! Rangers pick up the loose ball and Lowry breaks to edge of box and feeds Bacuna, Lowry hangs back and the pass by Bacuna allows him to control a right foot strike into the net! Well done young man! 1-0 Rangers!
35 mins – Rangers in control and Simpson drills a shot over from the angle.
37 mins – PENALTY! Clear penalty as the ball strikes Stirling defenders arm which was outstretched, good decision.
GOAL! Tavernier steps up and converts low to his left, not the cleanest of strikes but in and that’s all the counts. 2-0 Rangers!
39 mins – PENALTY! Barker is wiped out as he nips in, looks another good decision and clear penalty.
MISSED! Tavernier steps up and his shot is saved to his left, poor strike and good height for keeper who saves well.
45 mins – HALF TIME RANGERS 2 STIRLING 0
Half time summary
A training match for Rangers which has allowed the fringe players some game time and it’s clear at points. Easily in control and Albion are working hard but Rangers easily on top. Been a patient display but slackness almost allowed Albion a shock lead, that a timely reminder to Rangers who upped the gears.
A lovely debut goal for academy graduate Alex Lowry and one he enjoyed. Brilliant to see the squad celebrate with him and he enjoyed the moment. Brilliant to see, he has deserved the chance for his debut because of his B team performances and he’s taken the opportunity. Disappointing to miss a second spot kick through Tav but more goals here for Rangers if and when they want to up the gears.
Positive so far but very much a training game is some respects with all due respects to Stirling. More goals here for Rangers.
Second half action
55 mins – Chance! Looped pass the Itten who knocks it back, Sakala bounces an effort into the ground and Currie saves. 2-0
58 mins – GOAL! Itten finally takes his chance after good work from Lundstram and it’s 3-0 Rangers!
60 mins – Academy player Leon Kong replaces Leon Balogun
67 mins – Kemar Roofe replaces the largely anonymous Brandon Barker.
68 mins – CAUTION 📒 Jack Leitch cautioned for late tackle on Bacuna.
74 mins – Lundstram one two with Roofe who slices over.
84 mins – Shot! Albion keep at it and a nice powerful run by Mackin forces a decent save from McLaughlin.
85 mins – GOAL!!! Fashion Sakala bursts down the left and finishes well to get Rangers fourth. He’s deserved that and taken it well. 4-0!
FULL TIME – RANGERS 4 STIRLING ALBION O
Full time summary
A training match such is the gulf in quality but all credit to Stirling Albion who were organised and resolute. They made us work for it but when Rangers did up the pace we were easily on top.
Great moment in the first half with a debut goal for academy graduate Alex Lowry. James Tavernier penalty miss the disappointment of first half but that happens. Very comfortable performance.
Second half was a training game in which Stirling got deeper and deeper. Great to see game time for Kemar Roofe and Leon King who has a great future ahead of him. But credit to Stirling, they kept men up front and probed when they could. Rangers knocked it around at a comfortable pace without any real urgency and it was very much a training exercise.
Itten got the goal he wanted and deserved for effort alone in a training half Rangers played with little tempo. As did Fashion Sakala and the way he enjoyed and celebrated was a worth coming along on its on, he has a brilliant personality in this team.
All in all a decent nights work with minutes in the legs and Rangers through to next round comfortably.
The big pluses? Alex Lowry and Leon King, the future is bright…
Stadium Man of the match – Alex Lowry
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