No More Slip-ups
The next few weeks will tell much about how serious the Rangers are about recapturing the League Championship trophy. As if worrying about losing players in the transfer window isn't bad enough, our next two SPL games, against Dundee United at Ibrox on Saturday and against the Charlie Sims on February 15, will be major tests of our ambition.
Dundee United have a reasonable record against both ourselves and the Loopy Hoopies, they were very unlucky at Hampden on Wednesday and will certainly fancy it against us this week. But the onus must be on the Gers to impose themselves on the game, play it in their half of the park and, with Boydie hopefully still in the team, make it count in front of goal. However, one thing is certain, the Arabs will look to create plenty of set piece situations to make good use of the basketball players in their side. But we handled things well in the air at Aberdeen last weekend so I'm confident this serious problem which cost us victory at Tannadice (and a few other places) earlier this season has been addressed.
Hopefully, their midweek exertions will have taken the edge off United's game on Saturday. They don't have the depth of squad to change things too much so it will be the same guys who must be shattered by losing out on Wednesday who will be facing the Rangers. With Flood already off to the Piggery, I trust Zaluska and that serial penalty kick misser Wilkie will get a very warm reception!!! We must regard every Ibrox fixture as winnable and I think a lot might hinge on us scoring first and how quickly we do it. The longer the game hangs in the balance, the more edgy the crowd will become and the more confident United will be. But if our team piles on the pressure, the better the atmosphere will be and we will be more inclined to believe that we can still win this league.
We passed the ball well at Hampden on Tuesday, despite a pitch which was as bumpy as a cobblestoned lane, and Pedro Mendes was absolutely majestic. My biggest worry about him came in the last minute when he found himself involved in a bit of handbagging with Neil McCann and might have got the booking which would have kept him out of the final. Phew! I'll sweat buckets until this transfer window closes and I can finally rest assured that he will be staying at Ibrox.
A break for the friendly against Milan , our cup-tie at Forfar and the worrying final dealings of the transfer window are followed by our trip to the Paranoiadome but, having skooshed it there in August, why should we worry? We passed them off the park that day and, although Thommo is out injured, there is enough quality in our midfield (so long as we don't sell the jerseys before the end of the month!) to keep the ball and ultimately open up their dodgy back four.
We must come away from Parkhead still within touching distance. If they are allowed to build up another sizeable lead, we could quickly find ourselves running out of games to peg them back. My greatest fear is that we go there and Walter plays for a draw, only for them to thieve the points like they did on our two visits there towards the end of last term. Go there and play to win then, if things don't go exactly as planned, we might be inclined to settle for a draw. But backing off would only hand them the initiative and, as their crowd works up a sweat, the pressure is on the referee and linesmen and the contentious decisions inevitably go their way.
I'd love to see Boydie still at Rangers in February and going on to break his Piggery hoodoo that day. With the right support around him, the big man will score goals and, while much has been made of the chance he had in the game at Ibrox just after Christmas, I regard it more as a good save from Borat than a miss from Kris. Miller and Novo have already shown a great relish for scoring at their midden so we definitely have enough firepower to worry them…but only if Walter goes for it.
It is time for the Gers to string together a 10/12 match run of consecutive wins to make sure that we are well placed when Ra Sellick come to our place after the split. We thought we were out of contention when they opened up a seven point lead with their jammy win at Ibrox but the gap is manageable again and, although we missed a great opportunity to get even closer to them at Aberdeen, Ra Sellick have dropped enough points this season to generate belief amongst us that we can come out on top at he end of the season. Hey, I'm even tempted to have a wee punt on a revitalised Caley Thistle doing us a wee turn on Sunday.
It is all about self-belief. The shape of our team at Aberdeen implied fear of our opponents and, although we were much more dangerous with Boyd and Novo on in the latter stages, a more positive outlook from the start might have reaped richer reward. Wee Nacho certainly looked the part on Tuesday night and I'd like him and Boydie to be given a run together. Six points from these next two matches will lift everyone at Ibrox and make it squeaky bum time elsewhere.
C'mon, go for it, Rangers!