Shut That Door! - Gers Must Be Tighter At The Back
Teams no longer have to be too smart to play through our defence. All it takes is a hit and hope into the box, a couple of bruisers to give our back line a dunt or two and, with McShagger tending to stay on his line, one touch is generally enough to send the ball into the net. Believe me, the stats don't lie.
Of the 17 goals Rangers have conceded in the SPL this season, by my reckoning no fewer than ten have come from bog standard cross balls into the box and, of course, it was also a simple near post corner which resulted in our costly embarrassment in Kaunas. It really is beyond belief that, having got to the UEFA Cup Final by virtue of some rock solid defensive displays, we are now leaking cheap goals aplenty. And it is shameful that, having happened once or twice in the early weeks of the season, this has been allowed to recur on a match by match basis. Professionalism? Don't make me laugh!
Surely it isn't asking too much that the players spend some time at Auchenhowie working on such situations, with the likes of Burke, Adam, Aaron and Beasley hammering cross after cross into the goal area and, with maybe Boyd, Lafferty and Velicka playing the part of attackers, Weir, Bougherra, Broadfoot and Papac can start to figure out how they and McGregor deal with the problem.
Walter, Ally, Kenny McDowall and Jim Stewart must supervise these drills over and over again to make sure that it all becomes second nature to the players when they face a similar situation on matchdays. I was more than a tad surprised that FC Semtex didn't go for the aerial route when they came calling, although it was a fairly innocuous ball towards the edge of the box which resulted in their winner.
The scribe from the Sun made a very valid point in his report of our game at Tannadice on December 13. 'The departure of Carlos Cuellar, coming so soon after Alan Hutton's exit, is beginning to carry a cost'. Aye, thanks again Messrs Murray and Bain, you sure put together great deals for us there.
Again, the stats tell a damning story. Of the ten soft goals lost to bread and butter crosses, eight have come from the left wing area. The argument that Hutts would have stopped the bulk of these crosses getting into the danger zone, and that those that did would be cleared by King Carlos, is hard to contest. I trust nobody will suggest that McDonald would have turned Carlos as easily as he did Big Kirk last weekend.
So where do we go from here? With a back four made up entirely of players who are essentially centre-halfs, we should be losing absolutely nothing in the air. If we do find one particular attacker causing problems in this area, Allan McGregor (or Neil Alexander) has got to take control of the situation and get two strong hands to the ball to clear the danger.
Perhaps our wide players could contribute more by doubling back to cut off crosses at source. Nobody seemed to be too bothered about getting close to Craig Conway at Tannadice, even after it was evident his ability to deliver from wide positions was causing us lots of problems. If the likes of me and all those Bears around me could see what was happening, what was our management team seeing from the touchline?
Much drivel has been said and written about our style of play last season. No, it wasn't always very nice to look at but, for so much of the season, it worked. One Bear summed it up perfectly on the way out of Tannadice: 'Feck these end-tae-end 3-3 and 2-2 draws, gimme a boring 1-0 win anyday'. If we are to have any hope of winning this SPL title - I LIVE IN HOPE! - we have got to sort things out at the back and, if that means falling back on a more negative outlook, then so be it.
LITTLE BOY BLUE