Rangers 2-0 St Mirren match report

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By Duncan Wright

As kick off approached on Sunday it was difficult to argue against summer football in Scotland. For the second time in four days the Ibrox faithful took their seats with the outside temperature barley above freezing.  With snow on the ground on the approaches to Ibrox, and with the month of December three days old, perhaps there would be a festive feel to the pre-match atmosphere. Any such thoughts were dispelled quickly as the Ibrox DJ blasted the Prodigy’s Firestarter to those brave supporters who had taken their seats early. The returning supporters had witnessed an insipid performance on Thursday night against Aris Limassol in the Europa League and this had clearly knocked the stuffing out of them. Ibrox remained subdued as the players went through their pre-match rituals. There was more chance of seeing Scrooge than Santa.

After the opening twenty minutes some supporters may have wondered if Thursday nights game did indeed finish. Against St Mirren the game followed a similar pattern. Rangers were enjoying lots of possession but providing no penetration through a solid St Mirren side lined up in a 4-5-1 formation designed to frustrate the home side. There were five changes to the Rangers side from their midweek fixture including a start for the young Ulsterman Ross McCausland who had come off the bench on Thursday. Having scored his first Rangers goal on Thursday McCausland was once again at the heart of anything positive for Rangers.

Starting on the wide right with Todd Cantwell moved into his favoured No.10 position McCausland demonstrated his positive attitude to the game with an almost schoolboy like willingness to play on the front foot and move the ball forwards when given the opportunity. In the first twenty minutes he picked out Cyriel Dessers twice with incisive, zipped passes which the forward should have done better with.

 There was no surprise that the Rangers goal, in what was a pedestrian first half, involved McCausland. He picked the ball up deep in his own half and played a searching pass for Dessers who had made an intelligent run into the channel. Dessers held the ball up well before playing in Cantwell. Dancing into the box he tried to move the ball onto his left foot but before he did, Sima came in from the left and smashed the ball home. It was a vital goal for Rangers, giving them the one goal advantage just before the break.

If the first half was centred around Ross McCausland, the second was all about Todd Cantwell. Unceremoniously substituted after thirty-five minutes on Thursday, replaced by McCausland, Cantwell got the chance to show managers and supporters how he can affect the game most when playing in the No.10 role. Playing centrally Cantwell’s influence on the game grew as the game went on and in the seventieth minute, he was the magician who unlocked the Paisley men’s defence. He picked the ball up on the halfway line, turned his man, stepped into the space in the centre of the park and then played a slide rule pass in behind the St Mirren defence where Abdullah Sima once again expertly finished.

This was Sima’s eleventh goal of the season and put the game beyond St Mirren. Cantwell was substituted to warm applause after eighty-five minutes and had provided the evidence that he is much more suited playing centrally, as opposed to the wide right berth he has occupied in recent games. Speaking after the game, Rangers manager Phillipe Clement admitted that he and Cantwell had spoken after Thursday,

“We talked about the game on Thursday. He agreed and was frustrated also. This is the reaction I wanted to see. I know this is the better position for him but it’s also [been about] circumstances and injuries.”

This was a routine victory for Rangers against a St Mirren side who have now, despite some early season promise, gone 5 league games without a win. Rangers schedule during December is relentless and they will clearly face tougher challenges, none more so than at Tynecastle on Wednesday when facing a Hearts side who have won 4 games on the bounce. Hearts were last defeated in the league at the end of October – by Rangers.  Clement and his team will be hoping that history repeats itself at the start of December.

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