By Lee Clark
For Rangers fans, the above statement is rarely acceptable, particularly when they have just witnessed their team limp to a scrappy 1-0 victory over Livingston at Ibrox but, that’s exactly what many of them WERE saying as they witnessed their team, grind out a victory, with no fewer than TEN first team regulars unavailable, to start the match. There was very much a ‘take the victory and run’ feeling, as The Champions maintained their four-point advantage at the top of the table in atrocious weather conditions. Rangers struggled to get into any sort of rhythm against a stuffy away side and when, the returning, Scott Arfield looped a delightful volley with the outside of his boot into the far corner, from Borna Barasic’s clipped cross, the 48000 strong crowd celebrated AND breathed a huge sigh of relief all at once. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (as you would expect) dismissed any talk of excuses but, did agree that sometimes just getting the victory is enough.
‘I’m happy with the win, in very difficult circumstances but, in the end, we created enough chances to score a goal and we got the win which is the most important thing. We were pushing and had enough chances for the second goal but, in the end the win is crucial. We want to win every game, no matter the circumstances. These games are always there in a season and you have to make sure you do enough.’
All the talk pre-match was the return of Jack, Arfield and Roofe but, there was no starting place for them, or even a place in the squad for the influential Joe Aribo, who has returned from International duty a little earlier than most expected. Add these players to an already long list of absentees, it was easy to see why Rangers struggled to achieve any sort of fluency to their play, never mind the levels the team had reached prior to the winter break. Any team missing that sort of quality along with Davis, Morelos, Kent, Helander, Balogun and now Ianis Hagi is going to struggle however, Gio remained upbeat and spoke of the importance to manage their return properly, particularly those coming back from lengthy injuries.
‘We have to be smart with players coming back from injury. It’s tempting to put Scott or Joe straight into the team but, he (Aribo) has had two days of flying and, you have to be rational because there is more than just the game tonight. I knew I had Scott and Kemar Roofe for 30 minutes tonight and you could see in the last 10 to 15 minutes with them on the field with (Ryan) Jack that we were stronger. We now have Ryan Kent and Joe available for Ross County so that gives us more options again’.
As for the guys who DID get the nod on the night, some grasped their chance and some didn’t. It’s the nature of football and indeed, the nature of representing a Club like Rangers. Many fans will lament about the poorer performers but, it is also an opportunity to look at the success stories. Fashion Sakala, once again, put in a tireless display of raw energy, full of running and did everything BUT score as he collected the sponsors Man of the Match Award and there was also a first start for ‘B Team’ starlet Alex Lowry. Fresh from his exploits in Friday night’s Scottish Cup tie against Stirling Albion, the 18-year-old absolutely strolled it again and whilst it would be unfair to put too much pressure on his young shoulders, it’s fair to say he has hit the ground running as far as the first team is concerned. Most Rangers fans are realistic, they appreciate Lowry’s inclusion was probably forced upon the Rangers boss a little earlier than he would’ve liked but Gio has been delighted with his contribution the past couple of weeks and hinted that he could be around the first team for a little while yet.
‘You could see he was a little nervous at first (in training) but after he settled you could see the Alex you see now on the pitch where he is very energetic and creating dangerous chances. Of course he is playing because we are missing a lot of players but, he also plays because he has the ability. We have a lot of completion coming back so it’s important for him to go on playing like this and we will see what games we can use him and give him more minutes’
Rangers now go onto another tricky away tie at Ross County on Saturday lunch time, with a chance to put some pressure on the chasing pack, before they kick-off later the same day. It’s been a happy hunting ground in the past but, the early kick-off and the tinge of uncertainty around returning players makes this far from a ‘gimmie’. One thing is for sure, securing any sort of win, no matter how scrappy is priority one, as the squad continues to return to strength ahead of next week’s top of the table clash.