By Lee Clark
Steven Gerrard was philosophical, in his assessment of Rangers’ 1-1 draw at home to Motherwell yesterday. For the second time this week the Light Blues legions were left frustrated in the stands, as Gerrard lamented missed opportunities that cost his side the chance to stretch their slender lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
‘For me that was a 3 or 4 nil game’ said the Rangers gaffer. ‘Some of our play was outstanding today but, unfortunately we never rewarded ourselves for the amount of times we were in good positions in the final third and, at 1-0, you always leave yourself vulnerable.’
Honest, as ever from Gerrard who had promised that the long awaited ‘Flag Day’ celebrations pre-kick off would be secondary to the job at hand, defeating an in-form Motherwell side, who have proven to be a tough opponent in recent years.
The ‘Gers manager couldn’t have asked for a better start, in fact it was almost exclusively one way traffic for the first 60 minutes, with Motherwell’s only real opening coming from a hopeful punt upfield which saw Tony Watt skipping past Alan McGregor only for Connor Goldson to come to Rangers’ rescue in the tenth minute. That apart though, it was all Rangers and this is a game that could and should have been over as a contest inside half an hour.
Further injury woes from midweek saw Fashion Sakala and Scott Wright start the game and both looked like they had a point to prove, linking up extremely well with Kemar Roofe and Joe Aribo in the early stages. Rangers have been criticised of late for making laboured starts to matches but, the difference in tempo was there for all to see and they deservedly took the lead on 11 minutes, Sakala heading home from a corner that he himself had won after forcing the ‘Well keeper into an efficient near-post save. It was the perfect start to a sticky game and the interchanging of the front three were causing Motherwell no end of issues as good chances came and went for Aribo, Roofe, Sakala and Davis. On a day when Rangers felt good openings could be a bit harder to come by, against a historically stuffy Motherwell side, Steven Gerrard couldn’t hide his disappointment that his team hadn’t killed the game in the first half taking another of the 14 chances his team had created.
‘It’s frustrating because when a team comes here and they are disciplined and organised, it’s about getting that breakthrough, which we managed to do but, then it’s about keeping the standards high and going on to kill the game with the second and third goal. I should be sitting here talking about three or four goals today but, unfortunately we’ve only got one so, it feels a little bit like a defeat’.
Most inside a packed Ibrox would echo that statement and with the top 6 in the league, all dropping points this weekend, it certainly feels like a missed opportunity, something that wasn’t lost on Gerrard.
‘We’re getting there and we are in a good position but, we should be in a better one. It’s my job to drive standards here and I’m never going to settle for a draw at home to anyone. It’s frustrating because we have created so many good openings in the final third’
Gerrard, whilst obviously disappointed in the result, was still keen to praise his team particularly the front three whose movement and work rate were instrumental in creating the afore-mentioned opportunities, before Motherwell snatched an equaliser in the second half and he had a message for his players in terms of cementing a regular slot in the first XI.
‘We have tried to be as aggressive as we can in our team selection. They’ve all looked really sharp in training but, they’ve got to deliver on the big stage too. Even as the game wore on, we were still getting into good areas and crossing positions and it was about someone stepping forward and saying ‘these points are ours’ but, unfortunately they weren’t able to do that today.’
It’s a steep learning curve for players who, for large parts of the game, looked like they had grabbed their opportunity with both hands. Gerrard’s words will be a stinging reminder of the standards required to be successful at this Football Club though and the smallest of details can see draws and defeats snatched from the jaws of victory, something they will be only too well aware of, following a frustrating few days at Ibrox. With the games coming thick and fast, the players won’t need to wait too long to put that right, with Livingston the visitors on Wednesday in the League Cup quarter final.